Teaching Them to Obey…

10 07 2016





Can we have eternal life and not know God? Can we have eternal life and not be known by God? Can we have eternal life and not be a part of the family of God? You are wondering where this is heading, I am sure. But actually that is a very relevant and common question in Christianity. I am just posing it in a provocative manner. In my second post on making disciples, I am going to deal with a point we stumble on in Western Christianity that keeps us from BEING disciples and making disciples. If you read my first post in the series you know that I state you cannot make a disciple, if you are not a disciple. Most of us that call ourselves Christians in the West, have never heeded the call to discipleship. Not being a disciple, of course, means we could never make a disciple. If you read my post on Facebook or on my blogs, you know that I have a common theme when addressing this topic. If you are not a disciple, then you are something Jesus never called men to be and never sent men out to make. You are something else. If you have not read my blog post titled, You Cannot Make a Disciple if you are Not a Disciple, you might start there, before reading this one, to really be on track with me. But, if not, this stands alone pretty well in it’s message.

Discipleship: Commands of the King
In my previous post on making disciples I emphasized that you cannot make a disciple unless you “are” a disciple. Again, I recommend you read that post on this blog. You must heed the call yourself to become a disciple before you can actually make a disciple. That sounds simple but the call to discipleship cost everything. Jesus gets to be the one to define discipleship. And in Luke 14, Matthew 10 and Luke 9 the call is total surrender. Clearly, we must lose our lives for His sake, to save it. Jesus said so.

Most of us, when talking about making disciples are doing so because of Matthew 28.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We are all quick to notice in this day and time that He did not say, make converts, make believers, make reciters of sinners prayers and we are quick to point out that disciples is what Jesus wanted. And I, of course, agree. But we miss one important point. “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded YOU.” Hmmm, interesting. We are to teach men to obey everything that Jesus commanded the disciples to obey. Now Jesus commanded some pretty radical things. Turning the other cheek, laying up NO treasure on earth and caring for the least of these, come to mind immediately. They come to mind because we don’t do them. Let me say this. If you are a disciple then you obey King Jesus. If you are not obeying Him, then you are not His disciple. And again, you cannot make a disciple, if you are not a disciple. Now I will write about obeying and understanding the specific radical commands of Jesus later. But for now, I want you to understand something. Like me, you most likely have been taught that Jesus did not really mean what He said on any and all hard commands. If you have commentaries on your book shelf, then I urge you to stay away from them on this topic. Turns out that if you believe the theologians, you will follow absolutely none of Jesus’ hard teachings. They go so far as to say Jesus did not really mean any of the things He plainly taught. Modern Western Christianity has dismissed everything King Jesus commanded for the sake of fitting in with the world and for the specific intent of not paying the high cost Jesus called us to pay. Our easy believing gospel looks nothing like the teachings of Jesus. We run to proof text Paul, so that we can flee the yoke of the only Master worthy of our devotion. Jesus. Somehow, we proof text Paul to cancel Jesus. But as you will see, Paul would says such a person understands nothing.

Today, I want to look specifically at the importance of obeying Jesus commands. I do this, because, it is a core principle in the Great Commission. If the Great Commission is to be followed it must be followed as it is stated. Most “go” and tell people about Jesus. A few try to make “disciples”, but the Great Commission also instructs us to teach them to obey, the commands Jesus gave the Apostles. It is my contention that the teaching of the commands of Jesus is foundational to being and thus making disciples.

I am going to start in the most unlikely of places when talking of Jesus commands. What does Paul say about the teachings of Jesus?

1 Timothy 6:3-4
If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing, but having a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words.

Paul is clearly endorsing Jesus teachings and now let’s look at what Jesus and the other writers say.

What does Jesus say about obeying His commands?

John 12:46-50
I have come as light into the world so that everyone who believes in me will not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them I do not judge him; for did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings, has one who will judge him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on my own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. ….. I speak just as the Father has told me.

According to Jesus we see some startling things in this verse. The first that jumps out is that if we hear His sayings and do not keep them we will be judged. Then, we see that if we do not receive Jesus sayings then we are rejecting Him. Did you get that? Reject His sayings, and you reject Him. Finally, we will be judged by His sayings on the last day and these sayings, came straight from the Father. Bet you have never heard that in a sermon before.

People love to quote John 3:16 and say all you have to do is believe. But in the text above the question becomes, believe what? According to Jesus, if we reject His teachings, we reject Him. So many say they “believe” in Jesus but don’t do what He says. 1 John 2:3 says that if we say we know Him, but don’t obey Him, then we are a liar. Between John and Jesus we get a pretty clear message. Oh, but there is more. Read on down from our beloved John 3:16 all the way to John 3:36 and we find this…… he that believes has eternal life, he that does not obey, will not see life. We don’t hear that one quoted much. But now let me ask you a question.

Will we have eternal life if we don’t know Him? What if He does not know us? What if we are not in His family? Turns out Jesus has some interesting things to say about this. Let’s look at how Jesus, defines, His family, friends and those that truly love Him.

Jesus defines His family:

Matthew 12
46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”
49 Stretching out His hand toward His disciples He said, “Behold, My mother, My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus defines His friends:

John 15:14
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
Jesus defines those that love Him:

John 14:15
If you love me you will keep my commandments.
John defines those that know Him:

1 John 2:3-4
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep Hs commandments. The one who says, I have come to know Him and does not keep His commandments is a liar.

Jesus defines those that He knows:

Matt 7:21
21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’24“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.26“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

So I ask a question. In eternity, will those that are not His family be there? How about those that don’t love Him? Perhaps He will bless those that don’t know Him. It seems that Jesus intends to acknowledge those that love Him and obey Him. There is no distinction. If you love Him, you obey Him. If you believe Him, you obey Him. If you are known by Him, you act on His words.

Hebrews 5:9, And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.

And He says that we are to make disciples teaching them to obey ALL that He commanded His disciples. So this is our second lesson in making disciples. It is another step in becoming a disciple yourself. You cannot make disciples unless you are a disciple. You are not related to God as He defines, family, friends, those that love Him or know Him unless you meet His standard. And His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Next lesson, we will actually look at the Kingdom and the actual commands. But for now this is my simple message in part two on making disciples.

You are not a disciple unless you obey Jesus commands and do the will of God. Belief and obedience are not divorced, as Western Christianity would like us to believe. Surely people preaching Jesus, casting out demons in Jesus’ name and performing miracles in Jesus name “believe” Him. But Jesus says He does not know them and then calls them lawless. Without law. What Law? The teachings and commands of Jesus are the laws of the Kingdom of God.

Let me close with this. I know you remember a verse in James. In James 2 we have the famous ” Faith without works is dead” quote. It is the bane of the reformers and hated by Luther. But read on. After making the point that there is a faith that is not saving faith, faith without works, James makes one of the most amazing claims in the bible and it concerns us and the devil.

He ask a question, “Do you believe in God? Good, even demons do”. Perhaps during James’ lifetime there were people that thought “only” believing was enough, just like in our lifetime. Seems like an out of place quote until you think about it. Let’s do that a minute. He, James, says, that faith without works is dead. He then ask if we believe and then notes, so do demons. Is he making a correlation? Hmmmm. Now demons follow Satan. I wondered, where do demons get their belief? Why, from the Devil, I assume. It occurred to me that the Devil knows that Jesus is the Son of God. Let’s be honest, the things we know, we also believe. He knows Jesus lived a sinless life, he believes and knows Jesus preformed miracles, the devil believes Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered and was crucified and rose again. In fact the Devil not only believes those things, he knows them to be true. He believes all the facts of the atonement, all the orthodox beliefs of the Church. He believes everything that we say, is necessary to believe to be saved. He knows them and is certain they are true. But the bible tells us that the lake of fire is prepared for the devil and his angels and all that follow him. How can that be? He is a believer! Ah, but the devil has chosen to disobey, rebel and go his own way. What other point could James be making? And Jesus said on “that day” many will claim to have preached in His name, cast out demons in His name and done wonders. In His name. But Jesus will say, I never knew you. He says only those that DO the will of His Father are pleasing. And He says His commands came from the Father. Do you believe? So do demons.

Next up, what are the commands of Jesus and how does that relate the Kingdom of God a topic Jesus spoke of over 87 times and what are their implications.


You Can’t Make a Disciple If You Are Not A Disciple

17 10 2015

With_His_Disciples027You cannot make a disciple if you are not a disciple. If you are not a disciple, then you are something Jesus did not call men to become and something He never sent men out to make.  Jesus gets to set the criteria as to what  a disciple is.  We do not care what the dictionary or the lexicon says a disciple is.  We are addressing what Jesus says a disciple is.   Theologians don’t get to define discipleship, your pastor does not and neither do you and I. Jesus called men to become disciples repeatedly. Here is how He calls disciples and defines disciples.

Luke 14:

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Some translations render the closing statement, “whoever does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple”. Jesus not only came to make disciples but He also commanded disciples to go on and make more disciples. See the Great Commission. It is His method of expanding the Kingdom of God. But I really like the wording of the verse listed here.  “Any of you who does not renounce all that he has…”. Renounce. Not a word we hear in modern Christianity. To renounce something is to formally declare one’s abandonment of a claim, a right or possession.  I have a question.  Have you formally renounced or abandoned your claim, your right to all but Christ.  Have you renounced your right to your own possessions, your own life and chosen Jesus and Him alone?

I am a disciple maker and that should excite you. It should excite you because, frankly, I am, really, just a regular guy.   I am a man of average intelligence, average education and like you, for most of my Christian life, no one ever trained me on how to make a disciple. I now understand, I could not make a disciple, because I was not even a disciple myself. I began to understand that I had not answered the call to be a disciple, because somewhere along the road after surrendering to the Lord Jesus, I was talked out of actually following Him. As a new believer, I read of giving up everything for Jesus.  But as I shared this understanding I was told by leaders and my peers that for various reasons, Jesus did not really mean all that “give up everything, and hate the world stuff”.  Seems He really just wanted me to be willing to be really committed, and not to actually live out that commitment.  Being a new believer, I assumed these experienced Christians knew what was best. I became like them.    About 6 years ago  I met  Marc Carrier, and  we began to discuss, the Kingdom of God, real discipleship and real disciple making. I read some books with a new perspective.  I came back to my original position of actually following Jesus.  I came to understand that I needed to “renounce” all else. For the first time it became clear that Jesus wanted my total allegiance. I had to abandon the rhetoric of Western Christianity and follow Jesus in order to heed the call to become a disciple and make disciples myself.  This was God’s Master Plan.

I am blessed to walk with  Marc as he disciples me,  because he is one of the only people I have ever met that is going to the lost, leading them into genuine repentance, faith and baptism and making disciples, that are making disciples.  Since that is the Great Commission, I am following his lead. I am sure there are many others making disciples. It would be awesome if you could find one and like me, learn from them. Trust me, you can’t do it Jesus’ way by using the internet.  You can’t do it from reading this post.  Sorry, I hope that was not your expectation.  Discipleship is  a personal interaction between a practitioner and an apprentice.

Most of us are not disciples ourselves.  We are  “just” believers. Some are bible teachers, pastors, construction workers, mothers and other professionals that think the transfer of information is making a disciple. We think the people we share with are disciples.  But neither them, nor most of us, have ever been given the call to become a disciple, nor chosen to pay the price of discipleship. Not formally anyway.  Of course, we do transfer information in making disciples, but that is only part of the process. You can go buy books on discipleship if you choose. But the books I have read are written by men that don’t actually “have” disciples.  Marc, actually has disciples that are making disciples. Now, after being discipled by Marc, I do too.  You can be and have disciples also, and I hope that is your intention. I assure you it is God’s intention for you.

First in Luke 14 we see how He defines a disciple or if you prefer we see the actual CALL to discipleship. He is not asking people to “get saved” believe in the price He will pay on Calvary, nor is He begging them to become a Christian. He does not even promise them heaven. No, He is calling them to give up EVERYTHING and come and follow Him.  He promises life now and it is called eternal life.

You and I were mostly taught one of two things. Either, everyone that is saved is a disciple or a person becomes a real disciple through study and prayer and a lifetime of slowly growing closer to Jesus.  Then in some super spiritual state,  some can somehow become so mature they are a disciple.   There are other fuzzy definitions and most don’t even think being a disciple is important. Jesus did. But our classroom, white board definitions, power point presentations and sermons are not the methods He used. Why don’t we look at what Jesus did? Why don’t we study the one that actually gave us the mission and made disciples that turned the world upside down, instead of some well meaning bible teacher that has never actually made a disciple, that has made a disciple.   Why don’t we look at Jesus first, before we do anything. I ask, why do we call Him Master and do not do what He commands or follow His methods? His first words after repent and be baptized for the Kingdom of God is at hand, are these:  Follow Me. Why don’t WE answer the call to discipleship and call others to do the same?

I would like to ask you to make a very startling realization.  And that is that you have most likely never been told of the call to discipleship and thus have never heeded it. Like me, you need to come to a place to confess an obvious truth.  No one has ever called you to BE a disciple.  Thus you have never chosen to become one. You  think you want to be one.  You love Jesus.  You want to follow Him.  But you have been told you can’t or it is not important or that verses talking about grace and works somehow mystically erased everything the King of Kings commanded us to do.  I decided to become a disciple.  You may already be one.  But you must chose. Our calls to pray a prayer, believe the four spiritual laws, or a set of orthodox beliefs in order to go to heaven and be “saved” are seen no where in scripture, being practiced by  Jesus or the Apostles.  As a result, unlike Jesus, we can’t accomplish God’s plans using man’s methods. We use the culturally attractive, best practices of the latest fad to get the “unchurched” to come to our meetings, to occasionally listen in to a sermon while being entertained by lights, sound and a warm fuzzy message on how great we are or can be if we would  just “get saved”.  This was not Jesus way. Our warm and fuzzy call to the lost so they can go to heaven and have their “best life now”,  must be replaced with the call to surrender everything and take up your cross and follow Him. Jesus made a call and it was to come and die that you may live. No wonder people in the church will compromise on marriage, entertain pornography and fall sway to the whims of the world.  We call them to a nice easy and better life full of all the world has to offer with the added bonus of eternity at the end and some really cool people to hang with in church till then.  Contrast that to Jesus call to give up and renounce everything. For three centuries the church suffered in torture, refused to renounce their Lord and paid the ultimate price.  They were known for living holy lives, feeding the poor and their love for the least of these.  This is the fruit of a people called to discipleship.

Luke 14, and other text repeatedly make calls of total commitment. You must give up all and come and follow Him. It is hard to be confused when Jesus lays down the requirements and relates to us to hate or choose Him over every relationship in our life, take up an instrument of death and yes, give up everything, including ourselves and follow Him.

He does this  in Luke and again in Matthew 10:

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

And of course most of us never dropped our nets.  Andrew and Peter literally dropped their nets to follow Jesus.  Matthew got up from the tax collectors table and walked away. Zachias seems to remain  in his profession and reordered his priorities to the Kingdom of God.  But let’s be honest, many of us have fashioned our lives around our careers to such an extent they would need to be, almost literally,  blown up and started over again, to follow Jesus.  As a business owner I spent 80 hours a week working.  We spend the vast majority of our time, focusing on our careers and sleeping. Our spare time in the West is mostly spent entertaining ourselves or trying to replace purpose with “fun”.  God has a bigger plan.  And we are accountable to follow Him, not our self made plans.  I will tell you there is no joy like serving the King of Kings.  No adventure like obeying His will and commands.  One man stated once that we were made for the  Kingdom of God.  We were engineered to be happy, challenged and fulfilled walking the Kingdom way.

I spoke at a traditional church years ago.  I stepped down from the podium and pointed at a young man and ask him what he did.  What was his job?  A teacher, he replied.  I went around the room asking the question to others.  They answered,  doctor, salesman, administrator, student, intern, entrepreneur.  I then asked if they followed Jesus.  They all nodded.  I told them then, their job, their mandate, was to make disciples.  They only taught, studied, managed and ran their business to fund and provide for their true career. Making disciples.  I was not trying to make a point of semantics, but of a necessary priority change.  They needed to “drop their net” and follow Jesus.  For most in the building it would require a counting of the cost and a radical change in lifestyle. We glaze over verse after verse where Jesus calls for a radical lifestyle shift to follow Him and think, wow that is cool.  Jesus said some radical things, back in His day.  Then we act like they have nothing to do with us.  I have a new paradigm  for you.  Jesus meant them for you.  And I want to tell you that you need to renounce your current way of viewing the world, your career and yes that is your job I am talking about.  In the American culture sports, jobs, money and advancement are what we place the most time, energy and money on, in order to aquire the American Dream. Oh, we Christians put a Christian spin on it, but we don’t really renounce anything of the world, but somehow imagine it does not matter, even as Jesus says it does.

Jesus makes some profound calls to discipleship. Let’s look at some.  First, the rich young ruler. We all get all bothered that Jesus asked him to sell all he had and come and follow me and then make a million excuses and run to theologians who assure us that Jesus did not mean what He said. It was just said for that bad young rich guy. But Jesus repeated that call to his disciples, the church practiced it in the book of Acts and the history of the early church tells us that sacrifical giving and lifestyle choices to make room for serving God were the norm.


Here is a quote from Ignatius a personal disciple of John.

r] I write to you in the midst of life, yet lusting after death. My lust has been crucified, and there is no fire of material longing in me, but only living water speaking in me, saying within me, Come to the Father. I have no delight in the food of corruption or in the delights of this life. I desire no longer to live after the manner of men. Ignatius: to the Romans (A.D. 35-105) ch.7

Here is a section from The Shepherd of Hermas, some believe was written while the Apostles were still alive.  It is clear this was the understanding of the church, renouncing the worldly pursuits and following Jesus.

He said to me; “You know that you, who are the servants of God, are dwelling in a foreign land; for your city is far from this city. If then you know your city, in which you shall dwell, why do you here prepare fields and expensive displays and buildings and dwelling-chambers which are superfluous? He, therefore, that prepares these things for this city does not purpose to return to his own city.

O foolish and double-minded and miserable man, do you not perceive that all these things are foreign, and are under the power of another?” Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg. 30

Where did they get such crazy ideas, these men that lived and walked among the disciples? Why, from the Apostles that were discipling them!  And they turned the world upside down.  Take the Apostle John for instance:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 1 John 2:15-16

Back to the concept of giving up everything for the Kingdom of God.  This time the instructions are not to the rich young ruler, but to men that were already following Jesus and NOT rich.

Luke 12:
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I was taught the rich young man had a big problem, but that this hard teaching was only in his case. Apparently I was misinformed. Jesus repeated it to His own key men.  I suspect it is recorded in these two instances, not because He only said it twice, but because it is something Jesus talked about to crowds often.  But let’s not get hung up on the money aspect just yet. The disciples must have been looked at as irresponsible, crazed fanatics by their friends and family. They abandoned a career in the family business.  Matthew had it made as a tax collector.  He was set for life.  Should you chose to become a disciple and thus a disciple maker you will have to reorder your life.  Jesus was not speaking platitudes.  He was not giving a three point sermon.  He was teaching us and telling us how to follow Him and be and make disciples. If your career has you consumed so much that you don’t have enough energy to read your bible for more than a few minutes and pray before bed, attend church a couple of times a week and visit your Facebook buddies and cheer each other’s “Christian” post while bemoaning the decent of mankind, then you have a life designed to be something other than an disciple.  Again, then you are something Jesus never called men to be and never sent men out to make.

One man Jesus called, said let me go bury my father. Jesus said let the dead bury the dead, but you go and preach the Kingdom of God.

Another said he would follow Jesus anywhere and Jesus pointed out the cost. Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nest, but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.

Another says I will follow you but let me go home first and say goodbye to my family. Jesus said no one putting their hand to the plow who turns  back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.

Back to Luke 9.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

How about that for an “alter” call?  What was Jesus’ point in all these statements? They must have truly upset the very people that were wanting to follow Him.  I believe that is the point.  Jesus wants to “upset” your life.  He actually does want you to renounce your former goals and direction and take on Kingdom goals and His mission.

You are reading this because you have an interest in disciple making.  But again, you cannot make a disciple, until you are a disciple.  And the call to be a disciple is the call to renounce and give up everything and come and follow Jesus.  You cannot ask another to do this while not having done it yourself.  Mark 1 and Matthew 4 say that the disciples dropped their nets at once and went and followed Him. They walked away from their family businesses. They walked away from any normal life, possibly damaging their livelihoods and destroying their reputations.   Depending on your career situation you may merely need to reorder your time away from work. I ask, have you dropped your nets?  Only you can decide to be a disciple.  Only you must work out what it looks like, in YOUR life.

For me, after leaving a career of  being an entrepreneur, I purposefully determined to look for something to pay my bills and leave enough for me to help others while funding my work in the Kingdom.  I was working to disciple six men from  terrible backgrounds in the poorest two zip codes of America.  We met one week night, spent almost all Saturdays together actually serving others, sharing and doing life together.  Then we often worshipped together on Sunday’s and spoke all during the week about life issues.  We ate together and mowed each others lawns. We meet informally and did, life together and  shared with the lost. While I went to work each day, it was to fund my endeavors for the Kingdom.  Not to keep up with the Joneses, improve my life on this earth or make myself comfortable.

I have a brother in the states that has turned down promotions that would have consumed his time and limited his ability to reach out to the lost and make disciples.  Another, that has chosen to live in a very simple apartment and drive an older car so that he can maximize his resources for the Kingdom.  Only you know what you need to do to make disciples.  But you must drop the nets of this world to take on the yoke of your Master.  You can not serve God and mammon.  It is impossible.

In 1 Corinthians 9:8 Paul tells us that God is able to bless us abundantly  so that we can have all we NEED and have enough left over for “every good work”.  Jesus tells the crowd of listeners, surely containing the poor, tradesmen and the more  well to do, to not worry about food or clothing.  We thought these were pretty words and admired them as well written  beautiful prose.  Jesus was telling His disciples how to live this life of discipleship.

You expected a a simple “Ten Steps to Disciplemaking” article or book.  Sorry.  Jesus said it cost everything.  And when you change your allegiance from the values and priorities of the world and become a disciple it changes everything.  And for many of us that means our careers, finances and our place in society.

I did not write the verses and it is not my teaching.  It is the clear, consistent teaching of Jesus.  Mammon is not just money, but all that it brings.  You must choose God or mammon. The bible promises you will hate one and love the other.  I suggest this is not an emotional love and hate, but a love and hate that can be measured in time allocation, the expenditure of money and resources,  energy spent and passion applied.  Who or what do you love when you work 50 hours a week at a secular job, pouring in your heart and soul and then pray for 10 minutes a day, read your bible for 20 and attend church three hours a week? Again, who are you serving when almost all your time is dedicated to your career?  Or worse, your leisure. Where is your passion going.

Jesus tells a parable that is a fact of life.  The story of the soils. Seed falls on many different types of “hearts” in the lesson.  The seed falling among some ground refers to someone who hears the word, receives it with enthusiasm, but the worries of this life and the lure of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mt 13:22.  We imagine we are immune.  We are not.

Now, right now, you have a hundred things racing through your mind. “What is this nut, Glenn, asking me to do? Quit my job and go into full time ministry? I thought that I was going to learn how to make a disciple. You know, how to teach a discipleship class or something. Perhaps a three point lesson or a get a discipleship manual”. Perhaps “The Five Simple Secrets of Being a Disciple Maker!” Sorry, friends, only Jesus gets to set the standard. His call makes men drop their nets, blow up their lives, give up their dreams. Renounce our former direction and come and follow Him. It sounds a lot like true repentance.

Jesus is asking you to turn in and abandon the American Dream for the Kingdom Dream. He set the standard on being a disciple. Who gave us permission to lower that standard. (Quote from Marc Carrier). And dear brother you can’t make a disciple, till you are one.

So before I can give you any information on technique, teachings, or other information I have to make sure you understand YOUR cost. It not only cost everything to become a disciple, but again, you can never make true disciples until you are one. You will reproduce after your own kind. So if you don’t surrender all and become a disciple to His standards, then you will reproduce mutants. Half breeds and unfit agents for the Kingdom. If you reproduce at all.

Now, I was really ready to hear this message when it came to me. I was blessed as I began my journey to becoming a disciple by some books God provided.    The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down, by David Bercot, The Gospel according to Jesus by Marc Carrier and Radical by David Platt.  Read them. There is now another book I can reccomend by my mentor Marc Carrier that will give you a look into making disciples on the mission field at home and abroad, using bibical methods.  It is called, Pioneering the Kingdom.  Get it and read it.

Don’t forget, the rich young ruler walked away sad.  Because he had much.  I hope you don’t.  Will you drop your nets in this life and become fishers of men?  Don’t quit your job. But, it could come to that for some of you.  Seriously.  A career decision you made before you surrendered everything to Jesus, was likely a decision that relects a different set of loyalties than those required to be and make a disciple.  You can’t have two masters.

I was never commanded in the Word to be a publisher. I was commanded to make disciples. Before, I was many things. I was a publisher, a business owner and entrepreneur.    And before I became a disciple,  I started sharing my faith every Saturday at a ministry. I stopped tailgating and drinking at football games. I led 267 people to pray the sinner’s prayer in about 18 months. Later, I began to understand the vast majority never grew. The seed seldom took. There was little fruit. I began to seek God about making disciples. I read the books I mentioned and I met Marc Carrier. I was never the same. I realized that being a good entrepreneur or publisher meant squat to God. He called us all to make disciples who obeyed ALL that Jesus commanded.

And that is where I am going to take you next.

I am going to ask you to count the cost, but you can’t even count the cost if you don’t know what it is. When Jesus laid down Luke 9, 14 and Matthew 10, He did so to people that had heard the Gospel of the Kingdom. They heard that they should lay up NO treasure on the earth. Learned that how they treated the least of these would impact eternity.  They understood the radical cost of turning the other cheek and loving even their enemies. You can’t make a disciple unless you are one. And Jesus defines an important aspect of making disciples in the Great Commission and it will be in our next lesson. Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And my dear brother and sister, He commanded some radical things.

The early church obeyed Him and turned the world upside down. You cannot teach others to obey what you don’t even believe needs obeying. You cannot teach others to obey, if you don’t obey. Like I said, you cannot make a disciple if you are not a disciple.
I hope you are not turning away, like the rich young ruler.  You can’t love this world and follow the Lord.  Read those books. Pray and question everything you thought you knew about being and making disciples. But soon we will ask if you want to come and follow Jesus.

God bless you and please pray for me.

Jogging With Glenn in Africa

21 02 2015

Slow getting up this morning as sinuses have made a rare appearance. I determined, however, to go on a morning run. After a bit of reading and prayer, I don my running shoes and head out the door starting my watch timer. I leave my little low rise building in Umoga Two and begin my run by walking out of my neighborhood to the nearest road with a shoulder I can run on. For about four minutes I have to stay in the dangerous streets in my area, or risk sliding into the black foul water and filth that runs in the open ditches on the sides of the road. Dangerous because of traffic not people. I am a part of this community and thus protected by my belonging. To harm or rob me would be very problematic here as local street justice can be brutal.

Upon reaching the corner I turn left and begin to run. Let me qualify that. Jog. I am always reminded as I start out in my limited gait of days long gone in my late 20’s when I bristled at anyone who called me a jogger. I was a runner. I accidently ran the first mile of a five mile run in Nashville one time well under a 4:45 minute mile pace. It is certain that a 4:20 to 4:30 mile was within my grasp. I ran a marathon at under a 6:50 pace and had ran over a hundred miles a week on multiple occasions preparing for a marathon. The memories go through my head and it makes me smile. Not because I was a good runner. I was only average. No, I smile because I am running now at about a 12 minute mile pace on this rocky shoulder at 6000 ft altitude in Kenya. The land of real runners. Olympians and world record holders. I am now that shuffling old guy I used to pass over and over on a dirt circuit in the woods of Brentwood, TN. My mind drifts to animism.

I am fascinated by the cultures I serve in. Animism and Islam dominate the non-Christian environments I work in. And even the Christians here are trying to serve Christ with their past influenced by Islam and Animism as their heritage. Just was we American Christians try to serve Christ from our biases and backgrounds. Every culture presents challenges to the Kingdom of God. But the ultimate culture to survive, the only one that is salient, is the Kingdom Culture of King Jesus. Or as I have just identified it, the Kingdom of God. But it is very helpful to understand what challenges the other cultures we are planting the Kingdom of God among and the strongholds and issues that each believer might struggle with as we share the Good News of the Kingdom of God in making disciples. For example if you are an America, you have been raise to value independence, self-sufficiency, venerate capitalism and have strong values molded by the heroes of your culture that values success as being the goal or purpose of life. Rock stars, movie stars and sports figures were idolized as the epitome of success in our cultures even as they model, greed, egoism and self-promotion. Even as a Christian, you may have put a Christian spin on the American Dream and think that this is God’s plan for you. If you follow me you know that I challenge Americans to turn in and actually forsake and betray the American Dream and take on a Kingdom Dream. But that is another story. This morning we are just jogging together in Africa.

In Animism spirits, ghost and different expressions of ancestral approval dominate traditions both within and outside the African church. One brother recently told me that African’s live for the dead. Magic and envy dictate many traditional practices as they strive not arouse the jealousy of another and thus bring an evil energy that could harm their good fortune and fate. I muse on the implications of these truths from the outside looking in. Westerners basically, dismiss these influences at their own peril and are blinded to their implications. Our discouragement of the African abandonment of all commitments when a funeral arises is just one of our many frustrations with our target peoples. It is best to understand these things to be able to more correctly deal with them in light of God’s will for His people. Africans do not share these things normally and have learned to speak of things in a way that Westerners cannot understand, veiling their customs and ways to our eyes to better get along with us and please us while not interrupting their traditions. I pray for wisdom and discernment. A man speaks to me in English, I reply that, today I am only speaking Swahili and greet him accordingly. It has been said that unless and until you speak to someone in their mother tongue you will never know a peoples heart or even their true thoughts. I am informed by what a tribal man said to me one time. He was so excited that I was speaking to him in my limited Swahili vernacular. He stated that if I bothered to learn his language then that means that I love him. I have decided to love these people. So I am going to become fluent in Swahili. It is so much easier to parrot the multitude of reasons to just stick with English. I know a hundred reasons not to learn Swahili. Frankly, it the mother tongue of few but the day to day language spoken by everyone in Tanzania and known and used frequently in all of East Africa. I work among 10 mother tongues that all share Swahili to do business and speak to one another. Maybe someday I will learn another language after Swahili. Perhaps Arabic or Somali. Some go so far as to say that a missionary that does not speak the native tongue is destined to fail. Or to at least flounder and waste much time and money and potential fruit due to the stubbornness of failing to learn the language. They even say we produce false converts to Christianity. Instead we produce a mere shadow of what God has in mind. While I will learn this language I disagree with that point. The bible tells us that the Gospel IS the power of God to save to all who believe. I believe it. Even if it is through a poor translator or a poor grasp of the language, it is not our expertise nor our clarity that will produce Kingdom Citizens, we call Christians. Paul says so in Romans 1:16. He even states that it is good even when it is preached with poor motives. So of all our shortcomings it is silence that will cause the failure of the mission of the Great Commission, not our methods.

Most people don’t know that 85% of all people that come to faith do so from a one on one witness. Not the millions of sermons from the pulpit or thousands of annual crusades. Only 10 % of Christians every share their faith with an unbeliever. And let’s face it. In a crusade almost no one even knows who made a profession of faith. Not so in one on one ministry. I am not against street preaching. I have done it both here and in America. Many times. But if the intention is to make disciples then we must connect with the new believers in their new faith. I greet again and again on my run. Children, adults and youth. At one time early in my time here I used to tire of everyone trying to greet the white guy. Many view me as a human ATM machine running down the street. I am nothing to them. Others are truly affected that I speak kindly and directly to them. Some yell, hello Johnny, thinking all whites are named John or Johnny or at least so many are that this attempt might be their lucky day. I smile and tell them my name and greet them warmly now. Almost all of them. It is no longer a burden. Like learning their language it is an act of love. It connects us in some very small way just to greet each other in their language. I know at the car wash down the road they can’t wait on my return from my run to all yell their greetings. I smile and greet them back. Once a young man ran up to me in an almost menacing way and asked me if I am lost. He looked desperate and perhaps even meant me harm. A foreigner far from home and perhaps lost could be easy pickings for a thief. I answer him in Swahili and tell him I live here. I am not lost. I am home. He looks disappointed. As I said a man connected to the culture is no man to mess with. I am connected.

imageI am sweating profusely in the 85 degree weather without a cloud in the sky. Unless a Kenyan is an athlete in training they would never run. At least not one my age. In Tanzania many would speak to me in a manner that implied they were actually distressed that I seem to be sweating and can’t imagine that I am enjoying myself. They shake their heads in disbelief when I share I love to run for exercise. People that survive from hard manual labor cannot conceive of such a thing. That’s okay. I finally near my building. Walking again I enter my little slum like court yard. Open ditches with who knows what flowing in them and children playing everywhere. Its Saturday they are off from school. They get excited. They all begin to yell different greetings. All at once. I stop and answer them over and over and over smiling as even they are astounded at the sheer volume of greetings they have just delivered. Then I raise my voice and say, hamjambo. A greeting one person can use to address a crowd. How are you? Plural of course. It actually and literally means, business? (pl), the implication is “how are things for all of you?”. They smile and they have learned in school the proper response is for them to reply in unison, hatujambo. Basically, no problems. Literally, no business. Business, problems, matters, they are all the same here. They laugh and giggle at our connection in this small matter. I see adults sticking their heads out of their many doorways in my little complex. No doubt amused and curious as to the Mzungu, (white man) living in their midst that obviously love kids. They approve, but I am aware that adults here pay little attention to children they don’t truly know. But that is ok. I have run. I have prayed. I have meditated and mulled over the daily dilemma’s I face in this culture. Someday soon I will be speaking to these people as less and less as that stranger. I will always be the Mzungu. But my dream is to be the Mzungu that they know loves them. Modeling the love my Father in Heaven has for them. Incarnational love. Jesus came for His culture in Heaven and lowered Himself to become a child in order to relate to us. He was God incarnate among men. I want to follow His example. That is what a missionary is. That is what all Christians that understand their role is life are. Incarnational agents of their King. Ambassadors of His Kingdom. His very agents for the Kingdom. Well we are done. We went 47 minutes today. Much to do. Let’s get on with it.

Jesus and Judgment

21 11 2014

Jesus and Judgment

Part of the series: What are we going to do about Jesus?

What are we going to do about Jesus? It seems in many cases, Jesus and the Apostles, for that matter, just did not get the theological memos that I have been getting all my Christian life. Today we will look at what the New Testament says about how we will be judged.

You are probably wondering, why such a provocative title. But I am serious. What are we going to do about Jesus? Marc Carrier, an African missionary, was speaking back in 2013. He said that on judgment day we would not be standing before the theologians. Instead, we would stand before Jesus.  After hearing him, I decided to study the judgment as Jesus described it.  As I read the New Testament I found there was nothing that I was taught that even resembled how we would be judged, as taught in the bible.

I was taught that since I was “saved” meaning, I was sorry I was a sinner and trusted in what Jesus did on the cross to pay for my sins; I was going to by pass judgment and judgment day in some way.  Now there were going to be rewards for me, if I was faithful, and there might even be a moment of regret before Jesus wiped my tears away for, perhaps, wishing I had been more diligent. Certainly there is a promise of reward, in the way of crowns mentioned in the bible. There seems to be cities rewarded to the faithful in stories or parables of Jesus about His return.  That about sums it up.  In fact I can do a google search and find those same teachings in a variety of different forms and versions.  Basically boiled down to the fact that, I will not be judged. I will point out two verses that are mostly quoted.

There is John 5:24 where Jesus says whoever hears His word and believes has eternal life and will not be judged but has passed over into life. We will look at this verse in context later.  And of course we have verses like John 3:16 that tell us that Jesus died that we might have eternal life. What I want to do is visit the verses that specifically mention judgment.

I do this for a reason.  Many today, like to take the plain and clear scriptures that are hard or uncomfortable and just negate them via a verse that seems to point a different direction.  A direction that is not dealing with the issue directly but is easier and sometimes, seemingly, the opposite of what the bible says in the hard verse.  A perfect example is where Jesus teaches how we are to treat our enemies and clearly calls for a radical form of love. Turn the other cheek; bless those that curse us, pray for those that are persecuting us.  It seems unreasonable, costly and frankly scary to live this way.  So what do we do? Do we cry out to God for courage and faith? Do we pray and fast for God to change our hearts? Sadly, most run to theologians, pastors  and commentaries that point them to an unrelated verse or vague concept with religious wording to address the topic and claim this text or train of thought  gives us permission to disobey every clear verse dealing with the issue. One thing I have observed is that theologians are always negating Jesus’ plain teaching, and the call for taking up my cross and giving up all for Jesus was just a false alarm or a misunderstanding.  Let us remember eternity is at stake.  I assume when it comes to judgment you want truth not evasion. Let’s just read the verses for what they say. Ever hear of sola scriptra?  Men say they follow it but then quickly begin using theological Buzz words not found in scripture and quoting the precepts of their favorite theologians. Funny how that works.

Let me share just a few verses about judgment, and then comment.

Matthew 16:27

For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.

Now, I was told, I would not be judged. Did you notice Jesus says every man? Well if that is right then Paul did not get that memo either.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Did you notice that Paul is writing to the Corinthians and he uses the word ALL, when speaking of who will appear before the judgment seat and be judged? Yeah I know, you have been told all seems to never mean all by your theological peers. Trust me, I looked it up. All actually means all.

Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.

Did you get that? He will render to each according to his deeds, on the day of wrath.  Then he said glory and immortality to those who persevere in DOING GOOD and to those that do not obey, wrath. Now I was taught that since I prayed the prayer, the sinner’s prayer, and really meant it, I was safely guaranteed heaven.  There would be no judgment, but that God would only see Jesus when He looked at me. Well, then why don’t Paul and Jesus seem to mention that? Am I going to stand before a theologian, a pastor or a warm and fuzzy Christian book? No, I am going to stand before the Lord.  What does the bible teach? That is the issue. Why do the verses that specifically mention judgment and judgment day say “everyone” and or “all” will be judged?  Why do they say I will be judged by works, deed and obedience?

Many claim that the judgment seat of Christ is not final judgment to determine our eternal destiny, but rather to judge our actions. This is said to be where a believer would get his or her rewards or perhaps some disappointment.  However, this verse clearly juxtaposes eternal life with wrath. No mention of rewards or crowns.  The bible makes no distinction between one judgment or another.  Theologians do, the bible does not.

I am a simple guy. And I believe we serve an awesome God. I believe that we can trust Him that He has communicated His will and truth in a way we can grasp and understand. Let’s look at what Jesus and His disciples taught about this subject.  Here is some New Testament verses on the topic. In these verses, Jesus is teaching disciples, the lost, and religious leaders. Basically, all walks of life and standings with God are listening.  In many, only the Apostles.  We will look at verses using the words, judgment, judges, hell and or punishment.

Matthew 5:22 says that anyone who is says racca to his brother is in danger of the fires of hell. This is in the Sermon on the Mount.  It says in the bible that Jesus saw the multitudes, but then sat down with His disciples and taught them. He is speaking directly to His men, the disciples.

Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven.

Matthew 10:28 Jesus tells the Apostles not to fear men but God who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

Matthew 10:33 Jesus says that whoever denies Him before men, Jesus will deny before the Father.  Again, spoken to the Apostles.  Luke also gives the same illustration. Why does Jesus tell his disciples this if they can’t be denied? Is He lying? The great theologian Augustine said that just because the Lord says something it does not mean it will or can be done. Do you think God says or calls men to do things they can’t or won’t be able to do? If so you will certainly need a theologian to tell you the truth for God and His sola scriptura could not be trusted at all!

Matthew 12:36 Jesus says we will be judged by every idle word or acquitted by what we say.

Matthew 16:27 Jesus says, each person will be judged based on what he has done.  In some versions, according to his works.

Matthew 18:8-9 is a very interesting verse.  Jesus says that it is better to have ones hand cut off or eye plucked than to enter hell with both. What does this verse imply? Again this verse is in a chapter where Jesus is having a talk with His disciples.  The crowds are not even around.   He says it is better to ruthlessly deal with things that cause sin, so as to avoid hell.  This is not what I was taught at all.  I was told just to believe.  Be forgiven and I would miss judgment. Jesus seems unaware that the disciples beliefs would trump  being judged. I thought if I believe I am in heaven. End of story.  This same teaching is repeated by Jesus in Mark 9:43-48.

Matthew 18:22-35 Here, Jesus tells a parable.  In it a man is forgiven by the king and then does not forgive someone that owes him a debt. The King finds out, turned the man over to be tortured and Jesus says that it will be like that for us if we are not forgiving.  Again, this is a chapter that is a conversation with the disciples.

Matthew 25:14 Jesus tells of three men.  All given a trust from the Lord and one does nothing with it.  Each man is judged when the King returns. Each by what he has done. One is judged and thrown out into the darkness where there is gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 25:31-46 we see the story of the sheep and the goats. At judgment day people are divided, not by their faith alone, not according to having prayed a certain prayer, no predestination is mentioned, nothing says the elect are on one side and the non elect are on the other. Sheep are those that loved the least of these and goats are those that didn’t.  Again, these are works, deeds and actions. People that thought they were safe, find out in this judgment day prediction, that they are doomed. Then they actually argue with Jesus.  Let me ask you a question.  Are you arguing with scripture on judgment right now? You may be mad at me. Are my observations logical and the most literal and natural responses to these verses or do I sound like a theologian?

In a stunning quote, Jesus in John 5:28-29 warns us NOT to be amazed.  There will be a judgment and those that have done good will be resurrected to life and those that have done evil will be condemned.  Pretty clear.  Jesus says we will be judged by what we have done.  This is the text I mentioned earlier that is given to prove we will not be judged. Let’s read the verses.

 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Once again we see those that have done good, will go to life and those that have done evil to judgment.  They pass from death and judgment to life when they believe, but as we see later that does not mean that one time belief is the basis of eternity.  rather, according to Jesus it is how they lived.

You may be thinking that Jesus taught these things before He died for our sins and rose again, granting us forgiveness.  Some teach there is one gospel involving works for the time Jesus was here and another regarding belief or faith now that He is crucified, dead and rose again.  There is no text to verify two gospels for two different times and two different people. Scripture says that the Faith was delivered once and for all. There are not multiple Faiths in Christianity.

But Jesus not only spoke in the Gospels before He died but spoke again in Revelations after He died and rose again.  Did He speak of our missing judgment day? Did He speak of our being judged by our works?

Revelations 20:12 speaks of the dead being judged according to what they had done.  But what does Jesus say?

In Revelations 22:12 Jesus proclaims, in red letters, in my bible, that He will judge according to what we have done.  This is after He died and rose again.  No mention of any change in His message on this topic. No mention of distinction between the lost and the believers.  In fact Revelations was sent to believers.  No unbeliever would even hear this comment by Jesus.  It was not an oral teaching preached in the town square, it was Jesus proclaiming it in heaven within ear shoot of John who was told to write these things down, accurately, in this apocalyptic letter directed at churches.

What if I am wrong and Paul did give us the final answer on the Gospel and judgment.   Many theologians that dismiss Jesus’ hard teachings run to Paul for the truth.  Let’s see what Paul and the other Apostles say.

Beginning in Romans 2:1-5 Paul warns the Romans that if they live hypocritically they are storing up wrath for the Day of Judgment for themselves. He actually asks if they think they will escape judgment.  Did you hear that? Paul asks Christians in Rome if they are foolish enough to think they will escape judgment.  Are we also foolish enough to think we will escape judgment?

Later in Romans 2:16 Paul says God will judge the secrets of men according to the gospel he taught.  Funny, that is the same thing Jesus taught in His gospel.

I shared earlier where Paul says in Romans 14:12 each one of us, (speaking to the Church in Rome), will give an account to God for himself.

Now we do have a verse that warns leaders that their works will be rewarded if done correctly. And we are told that they may suffer if they build wrong, but will still be saved as though through fire.

1 Corinthians 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

We have a context here where Paul is specifically addressing those, like him, building on the foundation of Christ when instructing the body in the truth.  This is a verse clearly addressing teachers and so called apostles coming to the Corinthians and teaching things Paul did not preach.  So this is a judgment for teachers concerning their work in their ministry.

Let’s continue with Paul.  While 1 Corinthians 6 does not mention judgment day in verses 9-10 Paul ask a question. Do you not know that sinners, (he then list specific sins) will not inherit the Kingdom of God? This is written to the Corinthian church who he says at the beginning of the letter are sanctified and holy in Christ.  Are the sanctified and holy in Christ, Christians? I certainly think so.  Then how will they be excluded from the Kingdom of God if not in judgment?  Both presently and eternally.  If they, Christians, have sin in their lives, like those listed, they will suffer judgment and not inherit eternal life.  Or do we believe that we can be excluded from the Kingdom of God but admitted into eternity?

Let’s move on with the book of Hebrews.  Again, a book written to people the author calls holy brethren, partakers in the heavenly calling, sprinkled by the blood and holding fast to the confession with a pure heart and a clear conscience. I hope we can agree this is written to Christians, unless one wants to argue that one can be an unbeliever and be holy and hold to the good confession or be a person that does not believe, but has Jesus as his high priest. I have actually heard from theologians that this book was not directed towards believers.  Apparently, these unbelievers were encouraged to call the elders to pray for the sick and wait patiently for the Lord.  Strange words of instruction for the lost.   But theologians seem intent on relegating this book to irrelevancy, for believers, due to its troubling verses for those holding to reformation theology. But that is another subject.  Chapter 10:26-31, instructs those Christians that if they willfully sin, they will face a consuming fire at judgment.  Not a fire that burnt up their ministry works or the wood, hay and straw of their teachings.  No, it tells these believers warning them of people dying in judgment in the OT and alerts these Christians that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. A somber warning indeed.

I was stunned when I made this study. If I am saved by faith and grace by my precious Savior, why does the bible keep saying that I will be judged by works?  I always go back to James talking about faith and works.  Faith without works is dead faith.  And James asks if we believe that dead faith is saving faith.  The obvious answer is no.

I want to make a suggestion.  Read the book of 1 John.  I urge you to read the whole book.  It is written that your joy be full and also, it is the only book written that you may KNOW you have eternal life. In John, you will find that if you don’t obey His commands you don’t know Him or love Him.  If you continually sin you don’t know the truth.  If you live righteously, you are righteous.  If you don’t you are not righteous. Why does John not tell us that if we are elect, this is a none issue. Why does Paul not just admitt that if we are the elect or are predestined before the foundation of the earth for heaven or hell we need not take his admonishions? That is because when the Bible speaks of choosing it is always with instructions as to why the choice was made and what is the goal of the choosing. For Israel it was to be a holy and peculiar people, showing forth the praises of God a light to the Gentiles and the world as they were to marvel how great the God of Israel is. See Nebuchadnezzar. Paul was specifically chosen as a wittiness to the Gentiles. No mention of heaven or hell for either of theses great examples of choosing.

We are told in 1 John 3 that whoever has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need and does nothing, does not have the love of God. We are told that if we don’t love our brother who we see, we do not love God who we don’t see.  There is no ambiguity here.  If you love God you will love the brothers in a practical way, if they are in need.  Do you see how there is no divorce between works, deeds and belief?  We have somehow divorced believing, loving and obeying.  There is no such divorce in scripture.  We are not saved by our works; and we are not saved by faith without works.  My dear brothers and sisters, I want to join John and tell you that if you don’t have faith with the works of obeying the commands of Jesus, sharing with your brothers and sisters in need, then your faith is dead faith.

Jesus will judge you by your works. It is safe to do so. Jesus said a bad tree does not bear good fruit and a good tree bad fruit.  Again, He said if you love me you will obey me. If you don’t obey Him, the verdict is in, you don’t love Him. If you see your brother in need and don’t help him, the verdict is in, you don’t love God.   In John 15 Jesus talks about abiding, obeying and loving.

8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and abide in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Abiding is done by loving and obeying.  No obeying, means, no loving, no abiding.  It is explained as you read this entire passage that we bear fruit if we abide and if we don’t abide we don’t bear fruit.  If we don’t bear fruit we are cut off by the Father and thrown in the fire. Loving and obeying Jesus is synonymous with bearing fruit.  Just as Jesus obeyed the Father and was able to abide in His love so we must obey and abide.

So what are we going to do about Jesus? You and I will not stand before Luther, Calvin or your pastor and certainly not a commentary.  According to this verse, above, if you don’t obey, you are not a disciple of His.  Perhaps you are a disciple of Luther or perhaps Calvin.  But if you don’t obey you are not a disciple of Jesus. Jesus says so.

So Glenn, should we live in fear?   My answer is yes, then no.   Peter tells us to live in reverent fear because we will be judged. Again, written to Christians.

1 Peter 1: 17 since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Did you get that? We were redeemed from an empty way of life by the precious blood of Jesus and will be judged impartially and should thus live in light of that coming judgment.

Paul makes a startling statement. Paul, the chosen.

“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway,” 1Corinthians 9:27.

Castaway is the Greek adokimos, one disapproved by the judge as not having fairly deserved the reward.  Paul uses it again in 2 Corinthians 13:5. There he tells them to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith. Obviously Paul knew Judgement was in his future and wanted to be found qualified.

So we see that we should live in reverent fear.  We will be judged by our actions. But John makes another observation.

1 john 4:16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.…

If we abide in Him, we need not fear, but can have confidence in the Day of Judgment.  I will be judged by my works.  Jesus and the Apostles say so.  I must keep a reverent fear of God with the knowledge of my certain judgment.  I must abide in Him, and live in this world as He lived in this world, so I can then have confidence in the Day of Judgment.

My point in the article is that I was told I was going to miss judgment day. However, I learned, from Jesus I will be judged.  He said this before He died and rose and repeated it again after He died and rose.  Paul agrees, as does Peter. Peter points out that since our Father judges impartially, we should live in reverent fear.  We should live as foreigners here in light of this fact.  So I suggest we do just that.  We are also informed by John that if we abide in Him and walk as He walked, love will be perfected in us and we can have confidence on judgment day. So I pray that this would be so, for both you and for me. Now many will want to quote you favorite verse to me now. “I am saved by grace and faith alone, lest any man boast, by golly”. But in the NT salvation is mentioned in the past tense, the ongoing, being saved usage and the will be saved. You get onto the vine by faith, repentance and baptism. You stay on the vine by obeying Jesus’ commands. He says so. And if you persevere you will be saved on “that day”. The day of judgement.


Now many of you may want point out teachings that there are several different judgments for different people. For example,  the great white throne judgment, the judgment seat of Christ judgment, the sheep and the goats judgment and another for those that never heard the gospel. There may even be some, hyper preterist that want to tell me about all judgment pertaining to the destruction of the temple in AD 70.  I have read and studied them all.  The problem is that almost every modern day theory I was taught on the return of Christ and judgment day is a recent innovation.  Meaning that the very disciples of Jesus and the Apostles seem to know nothing about it.  It was many centuries after Jesus, before anyone introduced the preterist views or dispensational views on the end times and multiple judgments. The separation of judgment day into a huge variety of events for different circumstances is simply not found in church history till quite late.  The faith was delivered once and for all.  And multiple judgment days are not part of it.  The word is clear, all will be judged once for their works and deeds.

Were the Apostles Failures?

21 07 2014




We are a bit schizophrenic when it comes to the disciples of the Apostles. We praise them for dying for their faith. We thank them and credit them for faithfully preserving the writings of Paul, John, Jesus and others. We proclaim it is their faithfulness God used to deliver to us what we now call our bible. We point to them when atheist and agnostics claim Christianity evolved over the centuries to control the masses. We point out that they were proclaiming the teachings of Jesus, the Gospels and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus in their earliest writings, actually citing the letters of the Apostles – possibly while John was still alive – thus giving credibility to the very truthfulness of Christianity, and the veracity of scriptures. The early writers, I am told, cited what we call the NT scriptures over 35000 times in just the first generation of believers. This fact alone proves that the canon, in the form of letters and the Gospels was well established and circulated, although not officially called by any name, from the very beginning. You would not know that Matthew wrote Matthew unless the early church had recorded that history and others. Many of the titles of books and letters are not actually a title written in the text, but rather a title given to represent what the early church told us concerning who wrote what.

We are particularly impressed with the way they willingly went to die bravely at the jaws of the lions, and bears. They suffered torture, being burned alive and even crucifixion bravely and with great faith. Then we basically call them heretics. We love their lives, but we don’t like their theology.

You may see this as an odd topic. But, as many of you know, I am writing a series dealing with many topics I am frequently asked about. I realized that you may not understand my position on some things as they will be foreign to some of you that don’t understand the origins of many of my positions. Before I can explain to you about the basis of many of my beliefs, you need to understand some issues that may be unfamiliar to you.

We are told in the New Testament that the faith was delivered once and for all. But according to the theologians, the followers of Paul, Peter and John fell into error immediately upon their deaths. In fact some believe they fell into error before the Apostles even passed away.

One day, years ago, I was in a conversation with my pastor at the time. We were discussing some theological point and I mentioned that it would be great if we could talk to, or read about, the disciples of Paul and John. He then told me we had many of their writings but they were of no help as the disciples of the Apostles all quickly fell into error. I can’t express to you the surprise and disappointment I felt when I heard this. How could this be? Jesus handpicked the Apostles. He personallydiscipled them. He modeled the faith. He sent them out two by two with specific instructions. They listened to Him in person and they could ask Him questions in His own mother language. He then sent them the Holy Spirit to cause them to receive power to become effective witnesses. We are told the Holy Spirit would cause them to remember what Jesus taught. Clearly, they had the greatest advantages to conveying the truth successfully to others that has ever existed in all of the history of the Church.

Then these handpicked men, empowered by the Holy Spirit, were given the great commission, a Kingdom mandate to go and make disciples. So they obeyed and went into the world. They led multitudes to Christ. They personally discipled many, and appointed elders and bishops. Like Jesus, they personally taught the people and modeled Christianity. If there were questions, the disciples could actually ask the Apostles to explain. The first disciples grew up in the same culture and spoke the same language as the Apostles. Again, what a unique advantage they had! And yet I was being told that the church fell, almost immediately. This was disturbing.

I hope you find that view point disturbing too. You see Calvin has supporters today that still follow his tenets 500 years after his death. Luther, as well. Even cult leaders, without the power of either the Holy Spirit or the example of Christ and their disciples, have followers that have kept their particular brand of faith for almost 200 years. Also, see the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons, etc. You see it is no big deal for the cults and the world to convey their teachings and have them endure. If the men that spoke the language and lived in the culture of the Apostles could not understand and preserve the faith delivered once and for all, then how can we trust them to hand to us the scriptures accurately? If they could ask Paul about any topic they did not understand, in the language Paul was speaking, what makes us think, that 2000 years later from another culture, speaking a different language, we have any hope of knowing the truth?

Some people say, well we have the bible they didn’t. Sorry, but they had the guys that WROTE the bible, in THEIR original tongue, to THEIR context, addressed to THEM and the men that discipled them. Another told me, but we have the Holy Spirit. Really? If we are saying the church fell almost immediately after the Apostles died or maybe even before then, I assure you we are in big trouble on that account as well. Pentecost was a real and practical memory of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit was manifested in their ministries in miracles and signs. We are told the gifts of the Holy Spirit were active everywhere in churches. Paul is giving instructions in Corinthians about how to use them effectively. They clearly had the Holy Spirit in their lives.

So I asked, what error did they fall into? I was told they trusted in works and did not believe in eternal security. Guess what. Turns out they were not Protestants. Well, no wonder they were heretics! I began to read the early church writers myself. Some people call them the Ante-Nicene Fathers, the Early Church Fathers, etc. We have a huge inventory of the writings of the first few centuries. Some of these men were actually personally discipled by Paul, Peter and John. Others were discipled by the men discipled by the Apostles. At any rate for the first two hundred years we had a church that came straight from the men that were the direct descendants of the men trained personally by Jesus.
We have Polycarp, Irenaeus, Clement of Rome and Tertullian. Some were contemporaries and knew the Apostle John. It is believed that Clement of Rome is the Clement mentioned by Paul in his letters. It is not lost on me that some of these men were the Bishops and leaders at Smyrna. You may remember that Smyrna was one of the only churches not warned and chastised by Jesus in Revelations. Speaking of which, I am told the church was falling into theological heresy. But when we read Revelations the churches were chastised and warned about their “deeds,” not their theology. They were warned by Jesus in Revelations, but what did He warn them about? Odd that we are told they were in theological error, but Jesus only dealt with their lifestyle and their deeds. That turns out to be salient to our topic.

What did the early church believe that was so different from what we call orthodoxy? What was so crazy wrong that we call the descendants of Paul’s disciples heretics? Well it turns out that they believed in what David Bercot, an expert on early church history and writings, calls an obedient love-faith relationship. They believed that faith divorced from a Godly lifestyle was no faith at all. Kind of like what James says when he says faith without works is dead. They believed in obeying the commands of Jesus in the sermon on the mount and elsewhere. You know, like when Jesus said that he who obeys me, loves me, and that anyone who hears My words and doesn’t do them is like a man building on the sand, but he that hears My words and does them is like the man that builds on a rock. They took to heart Jesus’ words that we would be judged on the last day by how we obeyed His teachings, and that those teachings came from the Father. John tells us that if some say they love Jesus, but do not obey Him, then they are liars. Seems the early church took this to heart.

One of the major differences between them and us (and the reformers) is they believed strongly in the two kingdoms: The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness, or of this world. They took very seriously staying separate from worldly influences. They did not attend the entertainment of the world: plays, circuses, or the coliseum. They stayed away from the athletic fields of the Greeks, did not participate in the local government and would not join nor accept anyone who joined the military into the church for the first 200 years. Even after the first 200 years a solider had to stay from violence or be removed from fellowship.

Where did the early church get these crazy ideas? Well, from Jesus. They took seriously His words to be in the world but not of the world. They believed Him and the Apostles when they lived a lifestyle radically different from the world. The women were modest, wore head coverings and did not braid their hair or wear fine jewelry. The church was known for its service to the poor, its sharing among the saints and its love for even its enemies. You see, when you genuinely love your enemies, love your neighbor and the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, this is how it looks!

How can you join the army and vow to your government to obey orders, knowing they may ask you to kill another, and obey Jesus commands to turn the other cheek? To love and bless those who hate you. Let’s be honest, you can’t.

That’s where the theologians come in. Now this may all sound strange to you if you are an American. Whether you have ever read or heard about “just war”, an idea proposed by the theologian Augustine and written about by Thomas Aquinas much later, it became the truth embraced by much of what we call the church. Whether you know anything about it or not, this was the first time Christians began to kill other Christians, pagans and atheists. Simply put, Augustine believed that you could murder, kill and maim others as long as you did it on behalf of the state and you had love in your heart for the victim. I am over simplifying to be sure, but at its core I am correct.

I mention this because it is a perfect example of understanding the Two Kingdoms and also of understanding the early church writers. We have to ask ourselves at this point and ask if the faith delivered once and for all was lost with the first century believers? The bible says it was indeed delivered to the saints once and for all.

But Augustine and the leaders under Constantine had a problem. No worries; enter the theologians! It was well known that the church had NEVER condoned killing in the military or otherwise under any circumstances. In fact you could not be in the church and be in the military. Later when solders wanted to come to the Lord, they had to vow to never do violence. They indeed turned the other cheek and trusted in the Lord to either protect them or give them the grace to endure pain, suffering and even death. Although Constantine is never said to have been recorded as repenting nor submitting to serve the Lord Jesus, he did stop the persecution of Christians and later made it the favored religion of the realm. Eventually he even outlawed all other beliefs. (Just for the record he did take a communion wafer on his deathbed, too weak to refuse).

For the first time, the Kingdom of God was being defended and promoted by the government of men. Or at least this is what was happening according to some. Rather than refusing the input of an unrepentant, secular leader and refusing to join the state, many in the church embraced Constantine. They convinced him that Christians should be in leadership and of course then comes the question, what do we do about the military? That is no problem for the theologians. Take a verse here, a verse there, run to the old covenant and borrow some stories, and voila! You can create a doctrine or a teaching that no one in Christianity EVER considered or even heard of. They actually began to compel unbelievers to convert. Yes, forced conversions! All you need if you are a theologian is the power of the state behind you and a verse or two. You may remember the stories Jesus told of the powerful ruler who gave a party and invited his friends. They all made excuses so he sent out his servants to “compel” the poor and the wayward in the highways and byways to come to the party. That is all Augustine needed. He erased three hundred years of people coming to Jesus voluntarily, in repentance and baptism, to just forcing them to come on pain of death or torture. See how easy that is?

With the power of the state, one kingdom joined another kingdom, and you now can take a few verses and basically create any doctrine you like, even if it is absurd when looking at the doctrines taught by Jesus and the Apostles. We go from come all who are weary and I will give you rest, to come or we will torture and kill you. We go from love your enemies and bless those who curse you, to slaughter them, but do it in love and with the state’s blessing.

You may be saying, wait a minute, Glenn, I happen to agree we need to defend ourselves, that this non- violence stuff is NOT practical today! That is very true. But it was not practical then, either. Their obedience to Jesus and His commands caused them to stand out in such a way that they were easy to victimize and persecute. Their bold faith and radical lifestyle was apparent to all. To make matters worse, when comparing them to modern Christianity, they also did not believe in storing up money here on earth nor laying up treasures anywhere but heaven. They believed they did this by giving to the needy, helping widows and orphans and sharing their goods with their brothers and sisters in the faith. It was not convenient to turn the other cheek, nor to forgo personal financial gain for the opportunity to help others, then or now. Unless you seriously believe that following Jesus’ commands are vital. Then you read where He said to lay up treasures in heaven and NOT on earth. Then you read where He said to turn the other cheek and bless those who persecute you. And to them, it was simple. That is what you did if Jesus was your Lord. Simple, really. If you truly seek the Kingdom first, you don’t run to proof texts, commentaries and theologians to find a way out. You obey. Crazytalk, heh?
You see, in the first two hundred years if you asked a person what it meant to be a Christian, the answer would be very different from today. They would not quote a few bible verses or talk about faith without works, or praying to ask Jesus into their heart. They would tell you of the teachings of Jesus. They would expound on the life lived based on the Sermon on the Mount, the very teachings of Jesus. They did not separate Jesus from His teachings. Yes, they would tell of His dying for them and raising from the dead. Of His being the Son of God. They would speak of repentance and obedience to Jesus, born out of a true faith that resulted in a transformed life full of good works, as taught by Jesus and His disciples.
But what about theology? Well, hold on to your hat.

They also believed in free will. Universally. If you think it is impossible for the disciples of Paul and the churches that Paul planted not to understand predestination like Calvinism, then don’t believe me. Ask Calvin. He admits the early church universally believed in free will. We know these things about what they believed on these topics because there was a group that did believe in predestination. And for that matter, they also believed in eternal security, baptism as purely symbolic (and not necessary) and communion as only a nice ritual. They were called Gnostics. There are reams of debates with them so we can be very clear of the church’s position on these topics. The early church and the early church fathers, the disciples of Paul, John, and Peter, believed in free will, the potential of a believer to become an unbeliever and works befitting a man claiming to be a Christian. As Paul clearly states in describing his ministry to King Agrippa, he called on men everywhere to repent and bring forth fruit from their repentance. We also see that Paul instructed Titus to emphasize good works, all through the letters written to him to go and set up elders in the early church. Works mattered to the early church. Apparently, they mattered to Paul.

To the early church, if you had no works based on a changed life after repentance and baptism? Well then, it was assumed, you were not a real believer. You had no saving faith. They simply believed that kind of faith could not save you. They actually warned unbelievers, that if anyone did not follow the teachings of Christ and claimed to be a Christian then he was a liar and to be ignored and avoided.
What are we to conclude from all of this? Were the Apostles failures? Or was the faith delivered once and for all, given to faithful and capable disciples who by the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit delivered it as they had been taught. If Calvin is right then all I can say is that Paul, Peter and John did a poor job of sharing that little truth. In fact they universally got a big fat zero on that test.

What about works? I was told the church fell, and saw works being connected with faith. Well, I would invite you to read James. Also, read Paul’s instructions to Titus. Hey, even go to Galatians. You will see from there and the book of Acts that Paul was clearly dealing with a heresy, where the Judiazers were trying to get the Gentile believers to trust in the Law and Works of the LAW. Not to warn them against good works. It was a raging issue. Paul called for good works and demanded a man that repented bring good works befitting a man who repented. They did not juxtapose faith and works in the early church. They did juxtapose faith and works of the Law. Exactly what Paul said he was writing to the Galatians about.

What is particularly compelling is that the Church had such unity on these points. You would expect, if there was a heresy creeping in like we saw in the case of the Gnostics, we would have had the heresy start somewhere and be identified. We would see it introduced and slowly spread. For example, we had the Arian controversy in Northern Egypt. We know all about that error, its spread and its remedy and debates. We would expect to see some writers defending faith against works. Or a bishop proclaiming or defending predestination and a ruined nature, if that was the truth passed down. Instead we see the opposite side taken by the church, and only Gnostics defending ruined nature and predestination. Or, perhaps, arguing that baptism was just a ritual. But instead for 200 years we see the church in unity on these issues. Baptism was a vital part of repentance and belief. Whether it was Asia Minor, Rome, Egypt or wherever, they held great unity of teachings. So the truths as they taught them were universally shared all at the same time.

This has all the traits of a well distributed and coordinated teaching, clearly communicated, universally believed and geographically spread with consistency. Not a heretic somewhere slowly leading the church astray. And remember, the observations in Revelations, from Jesus Himself, were all directed at deeds and lawlessness – not doctrine. They were warned of eating food sacrificed to idols, losing their first loves, sexual impurity etc. Not a word from Jesus in Revelations concerning predestination or faith and works as being areas where error was coming in. Many believe this book was written right before John died at the end of the first century. If the church was already in error, you would have thought Jesus would have noticed and pointed it out.

No I don’t think the church was in error. I don’t think the Apostles were failures. I invite you to read about the early church and their great bravery, martyrdom and sacrifice. Their obedient love-faith relationship, and dedication to the point of death, to follow Jesus and His teachings. Does that sound like a bunch of heretics? Or does that sound like Stephen in Acts? Does their life of great sacrifice and loving good deeds sound like error, or like Jesus? I personally, have given up on doctranity. That brand of Christianity that defines itself by the orthodoxy of the reformers, or some variation on that theme. I have traded it in on following Jesus and His teachings. Not what the theologians SAY Jesus and the Apostles meant. But what they literally taught. The actual teachings and message of Jesus and the Apostles. The closest thing to a commentary you will find me referring to these days is the writings of the early Christians. You know, the guys that knew Paul and his disciples, the guys that spoke the language and lived in the culture of the Apostles.

You may be asking where you can learn more. I highly recommend The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down by David Bercot. It is a great place to start. I would add two other books of his, Will the Real Heretics Please Stand up and Will the Theologians Please Sit Down. Read those and I will point you to others. They are short, footnoted and great primers to understanding the early faith. So now you have a choice. Do you want to continue on the theological highway or find out about this faith delivered once and for all from a perspective other than theologians? Do you want the vantage point of those who lived and wrote 1500 years after Jesus, from a culture and language foreign to the biblical one and to yours? From theologians joined to the state, using the government to enforce their views, or perhaps you are considering something else. Perhaps you are now intrigued by the first two centuries.

You know the reformers murdered dissenters. They drowned and burned people alive that baptized people after repentance. They used the state to persecute those that disagreed with them, including taking property, children and yes even lives. Does that sound like the fruit of a good tree? Does that sound like a tree bearing good fruit or a tree bearing bad fruit? Jesus said that only a good tree can bear good fruit. You can follow their view of the faith delivered once and for all if you choose. It means the Apostles were terrible disciple makers, and perhaps Jesus chose the wrong guys after all. Or you can believe that they were not failures. That Jesus chose the right guys, and they faithfully delivered the faith once and for all to the body of Christ. Do you believe those that compelled pagans to convert on the pain of death and torture, and murdered their brothers for disagreeing? Is that your source of the truth? Or those that laid down their lives for the saints? Those that murdered pagans or those that went to the lost with the Gospel, and were martyred? Which one sounds like Jesus? Which one sounds like the New Testament? I hope I have got you thinking. If you are not careful, you might wind up making some changes. Selling some things now precious to you to help the poor.Spending time with the lost.Trying to decide if that 401k is really a good investment after all. Wondering, what do Jesus and the Apostles say good works really are? Are works evil? Or are they wonderful? Theological error? Or the works prepared before the foundation of the earth for the saints to perform? Just remember, Jesus said to let your works so shine that the world would see your good works and glorify God in heaven. Does that sound like heresy to you? If it is slowly sounding like sound doctrine then you may find yourself walking in a new way. I pray it is so.

Money and Africa

17 05 2014

I am frequently asked about giving in Africa. I would love to tell folks that you can send a check to most charitable organizations in Africa and know that things will go as you planned. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

As you know, I am writing a series of articles meant to be used as tools for me to use when people ask me questions. I did one on why I don’t do micro loans and I plan others as well. It is a process. Recently, a Christian in the US asked if I would give a young man some money for bibles. This person had friended me on Facebook so I knew a little about him. I agreed. This story is salient to this topic.



The young man had been begging me to connect with him and teach him about discipleship, house church and other things he had followed me talking about on FB. So why not. Sure I will take the money for him to get bibles and give it to him. I needed to meet with him anyway so we would proceed. I sent Pastor Fred to met with him first. I clearly explained a bit about our mission via message on FB. Pastor Fred reiterated it in person. He wanted to bring his father, a traditional African pastor. I informed him that I actually taught AGAINST, the traditional Christianity he was mostly familiar with. That I taught that buildings were a waste of God’s money and that any pastor with a church building would find me teaching challenging things to say the least. He wanted me to speak in his fathers church but I declined. I stated that I would meet with him alone at first and conveyed that I would NOT meet with him until he read our literature explaining our teachings and agreed that what he thought I was teaching, was what he was called to do.

We teach the gospel as Jesus taught it, not the theological version of the West. You must take up your cross, lay down your life, drop your nets and come and follow Jesus. Like Jesus, we are making disciples not casual believers. You must repent, be baptized and obey the King of the Kingdom of God. He agreed. I got the funding from my friend in the US and scheduled the meeting after confirming the young man read the material. He did not have a copy but did have a computer and could download it for free to read. We set the meeting.

He showed up with a pastor and an evangelist. He had NOT read any of the materials and the pastor and evangelist immediately began asking for money to build a church building. Sigh. After I shared our vision I had Pastor Fred and Wilson take him to the bible store to buy the bibles. Instead of buying all bibles with the money they only wanted about 40% for the bibles and the rest in cash for them. My guys warned them that muzungus, white Westerners, viewed this as a betrayal and a serious breach of trust. The Africans persisted. I want to take this example and explain a few things.

First, Africans communicate to build relationships. Westerners communicate to convey facts. This is a shame honor culture. Meaning that confrontation is bad. It typically damages and can end a relationships. That does not mean you can’t deal with reality. It just means you need to understand what you are dealing with.

I rode a bus one time on a long journey. I turned to a young lady in the next seat and asked her how long to the next rest stop. I explained that I needed to go to the bathroom. She said 30 kilometers. 18 miles. Great I could wait. I fell asleep knowing I would awaken at the stop and be fine. I awoke an hour later. I ask her again how much further? 30 kilometers was the answer. You see here, it is bad manners not to help anther. She had no idea how far the next stop was. Africans, unless they are very Westernized, have no understanding of the value of accurate time and distance. To her, it was very important that she answer my question in a positive way so that I felt good about her answer and was happy. I know this sounds absurd but that is the way it is. I am constantly assured of facts that frankly have no bearing on reality.

As you might imagine this has become frustrating and a source of great trial and learning for me. I tell this story to help you understand that she did not want to lie to me. To her, telling me she did not know, was unacceptable. She would view herself as a bad hostess. She wanted me to be happy. And she gave me great hope. FYI, it was about 140 kilometers to the stop and I made if fine.

Back to the young man. He very much wanted to become my friend. A friendship with a white man is prestige and honor and potentially a source of great financial gain. To have me as a friend and colleague would be the equivalent of him getting his doctorate. It is likely he had every intention of reading the materials, but lacked the funding to get online with his computer. It is also likely that he had shared his good fortune in getting me to talk with him online and had shared it with his father. After having communicated that with his dad, I am sure his dad ask him about it often. In his enthusiasm of getting to met me, I am sure he shared this with his dad and, frankly, did not have the wisdom nor skills to deny his father come. And of course his father had shared with his evangelist friend. I am lucky 10 guys did not show up.

Of course the young man shared NONE of my information in the emails. Nothing about not building structures nor about the cost of discipleship. Hence the immediate request for money for a building. Now onto the money.

In Africa, once you give someone money for something, it now belongs to the person that you gave it to. It is not yours. It is none of your business. An honest and Godly man will spent the great majority of the money exactly or nearly exactly as you meant it. However, things are different here. It is completely possible and in fact likely, that since the person made a request to you other factors have come to bear. For example, the brothers may not have had the fare to to come to meet me and had to borrow it. They will have to pay it back. It could be that you sent money for a cow but that the price changed so they just bought milk and maize instead. That is acceptable here. In fact, they may explain this to you and ask for the money again to buy the cow. It would not occur to them that you would not understand. I am constantly sent money that is ear marked. It is hard for me to have 500 dollars for a widow I won’t see for two weeks and stand in front of a house with starving orphans with almost nothing to give. I can find a way. It is within my power to responsibly deal with this situation. Africans, on the other hand, don’t have the obligation, nor skills to deal with this all the time. They would just take the money earmarked for one thing and spend it on the greatest most pressing need. In fact you need to understand a few things here.

Pressing needs come first. Forget what the earmark is for to an African. It may go to exactly what you want, at least some of it, but it might go to something else more pressing. that is acceptable here. And not dishonorable.

I am sorry to say that many Pastors and leaders here know what Westerners will and won’t give to. You will help widows and orphans. You won’t send school fees for the pastors kids to go to a private school nor build him a badly needed house or a perceived need of a car. So he says he has a widow in need and he buys a car. That is the reality here. It is an example of the corruption that goes on here from Bishops down to deacons. It is horrific in Kenya especially. Entire ministries are set up online that are completely bogus. Are they run by conman and thieves? Nope. Bishops and Pastors. Complete teams of them. They have also learned that the more other pastors involved the more likely you are to think they are trustworthy. And by the way, they praise God for answering their prayer for the new car. They spend their time asking Westerners for money. I have actually overheard a conversation between two pastors. One ask the other what he had been doing. Evangelizing? NO. Shepherding? NO. His answer was, seeking money from Muzungus, (white Westerners) as usual.

We brought the prosperity gospel and the easy believism of the West here and they have bought it hook line and sinker. We sowed this seed and this is the harvest.

On to the next point. It is their money. You gave it. They can do what ever they want. I know of a man locally that went to the neighbors for help for a terrible medical need. Everyone gave generously. So generously that he had more than enough. So he kept soliciting. He got enough for the medical need, a laptop and a new Iphone. He did not stop he just kept going. I have had to confront, yes confront, a team of pastors that I knew had raised enough for a plane ticket many times over and they just kept going. I can tell you that in this case I ruined any chance at fellowshiping with these men again. I was so angry that I trembled. I was so angry that I raised my voice. I was furious, as the money was to transport my dear friend Paul Imam to be buried in his home country. Men that had never visited Paul in the hospital nor seen him in years came out of the wood work fundraising for a cause they would never contribute to. This is common here.

So the brothers took 60% of the money and left with it. To my knowledge the young man has never read the materials. We have decided to wait and see if he tries to connect with us again. And if he does, one of the brothers will handle it from here. I am out of this one. I am no longer working or meeting with folks with the where with all to connect with me on the internet. Period. We seek out the poor and lost. Surprisingly, the truly poor seldom ask for anything. They don’t know how.

So my advice to Westerners. Give to people you know. To proven disciples. And don’t give to the big Western agencies either. They will eat up most of your funds with overheads and salaries. I don’t know what is worse. An African spending 30% of your givings on widows or a Westerner doing the same. I must say I have little sympathy to groups that pay a CED hundreds of thousands of dollars and have staffs numbering in the hundreds. I know some good folks that are not just MY people. Let me know, I can help.

I hope this does not discourage you. I hope it will not give you an excuse NOT to obey Jesus to help the least of these. Eternity is at risk here.

MIssional Immersion

8 04 2014

Immersion: It’s a process

There are many types of missional approaches a person can take. Immersion as a missional approach has many benefits to offer. It is also very difficult. It is the approach I have chosen or rather felt called to. To be more specific, vulnerable immersion. The vulnerable is added to actually increase the level of immersion. In immersion missions we live, eat, work and serve practically the people we are called to reach. To be vulnerable is to also, NEED, the people we serve. I came with many preconceptions. I was going to live with the locals and serve them directly. I had the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and with that I was going to teach them to obey the commands of Christ. As I began I found I bore little lasting fruit. I learned I needed to seek to understand before I could be understood. Paul did a bit of this in walking around the Greek city of Athens trying to learn how to best relate to the city he was determined to approach with the Gospel. Jesus instructs us to go in vulnerable when He models teaching disciples to go out without purse, extra clothing and food for the mission work. They were intentionally going out needing to find a person of peace to provide housing, food and a segue into the community. While I teach going house to house to share the Gospel, Jesus says to STAY in one place after finding the person of peace, living and eating with them and using them as a connection to the community around them. It is genius. That is what I have succeeded in personally doing in Tanzania.



I am stared at, misunderstood and imposed upon, by Western standards, daily. I cannot avoid it. It is the price I pay. Sometimes I yearn to simply be left alone for a bit and just to regroup. This, too, is not understood. We Americans, in particular,  are an individualistic group. Perhaps me, more than most. By the very nature that a person leaves their homeland to go and reach another person, they are usually very  individualistic. In Africa, the individual is not what is important. Rather it is the network of friends and family that make up the community or tribe that matters most. One’s peers from school, your age group from school, family and the social network one forms in society, is the very foundation of life. There were no reliable banks or institutions to rely on for thousands of years here so this was a matter of survival during hard times. And it works quite well, while it is foreign to Westerners.

By immersing ourselves into the lives of the people we serve we remove walls and barriers. Cultural, stereotypical and practically. We go in poor, since we serve the poor, and remove as much of the stigma of being the rich white person as much as possible. It is never gone, but we better understand each other and have to deal with these preconceptions head on. So many things are baffling to the Western mind and in reverse, so much about us is baffling to the Africans I seek to serve. We are viewed through the lens of popular culture that says we are bright, rich and almost magical. It seems we have all the answers and power. While saying this, we are also a mystery. To a person, even many generations removed from the animist beliefs of their ancestors, the Africans still have many animist beliefs informing their perceptions and forming a worldview very different from a Westerner. In Animism, if a person is more successful and has an advantage over others, as Westerners do, we have “it”. They don’t know what “it” is but we have it. To an Animist mindset, a person can gain this advantage by witchcraft, being in tune with mystical ways or perhaps some even more puzzling way. While an African may be a Christian, these past beliefs greatly influenced their parents and peers for hundreds of years. They are not removed by simply educating them differently.


I recently read a story about a student from India. She was in Med school.  She was going to one of the best universities in England.  On the last day of class she turned in her paper.  She was an excellent student and very confident of her getting a high score.  She turned to her professor and told him as she went out the door that she had now learned what the West had to teach her.  She had seen the bacteria and viruses under the micro scope and knew how to treat disease using Western methods.  However, she told the professor that in her country they KNEW how these killing diseases came to be in a person.  To her professors horror, she announced they came into being as invisible witches bit people on the back. She had heard all he had to teach and all the education he could give but still held to her animist beliefs.  Education will not fix these cultures.


Below I will give a few examples but to truly study some societal situations I recommend a book call, African Friends and Money Matters. Money, time and communication are the areas where we see these conflicts and misunderstandings confront both cultures in their most blatant ways. Family could just as well be included in that list.
Concerning family, let me make an observation. In an African commentary I found a very interesting observation that shed light on family in Africa. In the bible, in Genesis, we are taught that we are to leave our past family and cleave to our wife. The two become one.  In this commentary, African leaders pointed out that this was not part of the African culture and their perspective has helped me understand things I observe much better. In Africa a man may negotiate with the parents of the wife to pay for her. It is sometimes called a bride price, and can look like this. The women is of value to the agrarian lifestyle here as a laborer. Women do the majority of the mundane farming. They weed, plant, cook, raise the children and harvest in many places, with very little help from the men. As such, they are a valuable part of the family’s success and survival. When a man wants to marry a daughter he is asking to take a valued laborer with him to wed and start a new family. She will be missed and her contribution gone. As such, depending on the tribal context, he may “purchase” her with cattle, money, goats or all of these. In fact, he may make payments from time to time to compensate for her loss his entire marriage. He will be called upon during times of difficulty and need for compensation.  She will go to live with him and contribute not only to his home, but to the shamba, or family farm, owned by his parents and or patriarchs. But she is STILL part of her parent’s family in many ways she will stay connected through communication and perhaps never truly be regarded or accepted into his family in an intimate way. The slums I work in are made up mostly of women. They come here due to a common theme. Their husbands died or fell out of favor with the home family,  and then died and they came here to survive. Most were thrown off the shamba of the husband soon after his death since they have no right to the land or home. They all belonged to the husband and with him gone the home can best be used for other family members. This is most prevalent among the poor. Many can’t go home to their parents  as their position has been filled by another by now and since they have perhaps 5-10 mouths to feed, they may be perceived as a liability. So they are not welcome to their parent’s home. They wind up homeless or in the slums.

The African leaders in the commentary made this curious situation clear to me. I saw it everywhere but did not understand the dynamics. We can quote the bible verses and teach all we want on things being otherwise. But only true discipleship and the embracing of new Kingdom values can replace these old values. I seriously doubt that outside the Kingdom of God and the influence of the Church, this situation will not change, if at all, for many, many generations. Africans don’t embrace change like the West does. The teachers in this commentary were admitting this was a very alien biblical teaching that needed to be addressed. I agree.
Personal space and possessions are another area of great adjustment for me. It is not uncommon to get on the small buses in Tanzania called matatu’s that are designed to carry 11 people in a very crowded environment and have as many as 27 people on the bus when we try to disembark. This is normal here and viewed as acceptable. I have even been in a restaurant eating alone and have people come in and sit at my table to eat. They can’t imagine my wanting to be alone. Besides, it is very interesting to meet new people here and white people, wazungus, have “it” so meeting one and befriending them is viewed as potentially very beneficial. I chose to be immersed but of course no one prepares you for these types of things. Complete strangers, some with noble, curious and good intentions approach me everyday wanting to greet me and become my friend. I simply can’t befriend everyone here. And of course there are those that have less than noble intentions in meeting me. They just see me as an ATM machine of sorts and perhaps may even want to lure me away and rob me. Though this is very rare in Tanzania. Robbing whites I mean, in an obvious, put a knife to your throat kind of way. It is more common in other countries like Kenya and the Congo.

I have had my personal belongings given away to perfect strangers when I was gone out of town. I had three pairs of sandals. A man visited a family member and his sandal broke. So my host family just took one of my extra pairs and gave them to the man. Without asking or really telling me. I had a very nice pair come up missing. The next day I see a stranger with some on just like mine. I asked about it and it was explained to me that he had a need and I had three pairs so they gave them mine. OK. I could have reacted like a good Westerner and told them that I had a reason for those sandals and that I would be happy to help but that it was only polite to be given the opportunity to chose to help. One pair of sandals  was to be a gift for a friend coming to Africa and was a special type used only by the Masai.  Instead I said, great, now I understand. When you have two cloaks and your neighbor none give them a cloak. Even if you don’t get to make that call. I had to laugh to myself on that one.

Money is perhaps the most baffling to us in the West. When we want money we go to the bank, we take a second job, or pull out our debit or credit card. Here, a person goes to their friends. It is actually considered selfish to save money. If a person is seen by a friend in a bank here they will frequently tell others “you did not see me here”. They smile at each other knowingly. You see there is always such need and friends and family are so financially connected, that there is always a need to be met in your circle of connections. Everyone has borrowed and loaned to their friends. So everyone owes someone something all the time. To save is to selfishly hoard here. When a person has a windfall, of sorts, they frequently and quickly start building a home. Even if they only have money for a foundation or a wall they will quickly pay someone to build it. Even if they may take many years to complete it in this piece meal manner they proceed. It is the only way to keep any of one’s earnings honorably. African is full of partially built houses. They are literally everywhere.

I frequently, and that means almost daily, have people I know and strangers come to my door asking for money. This is very frustrating for Westerners. At least until you understand how community works. An example was a widow down the road. She came to my house and explained where she lived. Her son was going to have a formal engagement ceremony. There would be a feast, requiring food, rented chairs and perhaps entertainment. I did not know this lady. But here it was a normal request for a neighbor to make, even if you don’t really know them. By contributing you are, in effect, joining the community. You are deciding to connect with this other human being. To turn them away is risky. It is always best to give something. If you can’t you simply must, let them know that you can’t now, but that you sincerely hope that they will come back the next time they are in need. You must press the issue. It is vital for your position in the community. I gave about eight dollars. A solid gift in this community.

I was at first very taken back by this. As a Westerner, we are taught to never beg or if possible to never even ask close friends for help unless we are desperate. And this desperation is very humbling or even humiliating to us. Here it is expected and of great value in defining relationships. I had a lady down the road needing to pay a huge medical bill. Had she come the first several months I was here I would have felt very burdened and in fact, put upon, to help her. She needed about 2000 US dollars for a huge medical bill for a treatment that had saved her son. She had borrowed, somehow, about half of the money and now if she did not pay it back she would lose everything. She had raised half of it through her network connections but still needed a thousand. She came to me. I now understood she was giving me another opportunity to connect with the community. I now realized that, while I was welcome to pay it all, I was also welcome to simply do what I thought was appropriate giving my financial circumstances and my desired relationship. I told her that I had no money that day for her, but that I would certainly help her. I thanked her for asking me. She was very happy and a few days later I took her the equivalent of 50 dollars. This amount would signify that I wanted a significant relationship with her and was comparative to a gift of a caring uncle, but not the equivalence of a father, close friend of means or adult child.


It has been a struggle to understand my place here in ministry, relationships individually and in the community as a whole. Learning the language is increasingly giving me a better connection to these people. I live in a mud and homemade brick home just like them. I have no running water and no electric power is allowed on the park reserve I live on near Mt. Meru, adjacent to the Arusha National Park in Tanzania. In Nairobi I live in an area that you would call a slum. But I know it to be lower middle class. I may someday really be one of these people. For now it is a process that has a long way to go. It is my desire to become a true African. I want to first, of course, be a loyal Kingdom Citizen. The Western mindset is strong in me, as it is in all, raised in the West. But I find myself thinking less like a Westerner and at least very understanding of the African mindset. I am a bit of a hybrid right now. But I stay vulnerable. Needing the help of my neighbors and to contribute to them as a good neighbor and friend would. I bring my Kingdom values into every situation and use them all to teach the love of Jesus and strive to model Kingdom principles. I refuse to participate in all actions deemed counter to the Kingdom Culture and have succeeded in the area. Obviously, I don’t participate in anything remotely animist or festivals and observances contrary to good judgment.

Please pray for me to learn to love and honor these people as I extend Jesus and the Kingdom of God into their lives. They are worth all my efforts, as Jesus counted them worthy to die for them. Who am I to do less than lay my life down for them as well.