Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’

1 Samuel 3:1-4:1 (Part 3 of 3)
The Lord Speaks to Samuel

Preacher’s kids are the worst kind. Have you heard that phrase? I was a preacher’s kid (PK). I grew up as the son of a South Carolina United Methodist Church minister. I have lived in Lamar, SC. I have lived in Anderson, SC once. I have lived in Walhalla, SC. I have lived in Rembert, SC. I have lived in Hartsville, SC. I have lived in Elgin, SC (just outside of Columbia, our state’s capital city). I have lived in Anderson, SC. I have lived in Travelers Rest, SC (just outside of Greenville #yeahthatgreenville), all before I graduated high school. Such is the life of a Methodist minister and his family – moving…a lot. You would think that I would have grown up and gone in the ministry as some PK’s do. My brother did that. Being a Methodist minister in the South Carolina Conference of the church is kind of the family business. My dad was a Methodist minister in South Carolina. My uncle Doug was a Methodist minister in South Carolina. My brother is a Methodist minister in South Carolina. My brother married the daughter of a Methodist minister in South Carolina. It’s the family business. However, I was the black sheep of the family! LOL! I became an accountant. And by my teenage years, I helped add to the mystique of preacher’s kids being the worst kind and as an adult I may have gone to church regularly up until about 1992, it was a nothingness, just something you did. After marrying right after my freshman year in college, I continued to attend my wife’s small 40 people at church on Sunday church that was nothing more than a glorified social club (at least that is what it seemed to me) rather than a place of spiritual challenge and growth in discipleship. So, in those years church was just something I did – nothing that caused me to accept Christ as my Savior or that would challenge me to grow in my faith if I had done so. Church, there. Church, always there. Church, not really meaning anything that just always being there, part of my life.

You would think that growing up in a preacher’s home and all that it entails that I would have grown up more spiritual in nature, more attuned to church, more studious in God’s Word, and most certainly one of those who accepted Christ at a very young age. I may have professed maybe even multiple times as a child that I had accepted Christ as my Savior but I do not ever remember a specific moment of having had the salvation experience. I did not fully experience anything like that until December 2001 when I was 39 years and 4 months old. When I was growing up, church was the family business. We often lived in parsonages that were right next to the church. Churches that my dad served were the playgrounds for me and my brother to entertain ourselves in. On Sundays it was all church business but during the week we would ramble around and through my dad’s churches as if they were daily adventures in a theme park. Back in the days when we were little, re-runs of Star Trek (The Original Series) had captured our imagination. So, of course, my dad’s churches became the Starship Enterprise. We play out episodes of the show in our starship I mean church building. Outside would be the foreign worlds where Star Trek landing parties would go. In general, we were always at the church. Since mom worked full time, Dad was the one to take care of us in the afternoons after school and in the summer time. So, while he would be in his office doing his ministerial duties, we would wander around the church buildings having our adventures. We were always at church. All the time. I guess when you are there all the time you became numb to its glory and power.

Over the years because I was always there, it was no longer special. It was just part of the scenery, the background of a little kid’s life, the background of tweener’s life, the background of a teenager’s life. With what I am about to say, don’t let it come across as though I hate the way I grew up. Don’t ever think that. When I look back on how my parents raised me, I am thankful, oh so thankful, for the way they raised me. My dad, especially, instilled in us to work hard, to know right from wrong, to treat others fairly regardless of who they were, what they looked like, where they came from, or the color of their skin. My dad instilled in us a desire to learn, to love learning, to love school, to love to learn something new every day. My dad taught us about being men. He taught that no matter what men have to work all of their lives with no breaks and that sometimes you get knocked down, things happen where people screw you over, things happen in life that are not fair, but as a man you have to get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving on. He taught us to be good providers for our families and to do whatever it takes to keep our families fed, clothed, and protected. My brother and I have grown up to be productive and generally successful in our respective fields of endeavor. So, don’t get me wrong. I had a good life growing up. I would not take anything for the great times that we had as a family and some of those great father-son moments that I had with my dad. I have no issue with the way I grew up except for one.

I think that my dad kind of ignored the spiritual condition of his children once we got past those little kid years. I think that he thought after those years just being exposed to the life of minister that we would learn, grow, accept Christ, mature as a disciple and all of that by osmosis. It was either that or Dad was so busy with church stuff from the morning in the office until sometimes late in the evenings with meetings, counseling sessions, and any other of a multitude of church activities that occupies the life of a minister. It is more than just your 8 hour a day factory or office worker job. It is from daylight til well into the night pretty much 6 to 7 days a week. A preacher is always on duty. So, when my Dad was home maybe he just wanted to decompress and church was the farthest thing from his mind. Or maybe it was that he didn’t want us to be weird, wacked out religious freaks. Our home after we were little was as secular as yours. As we got older, dad’s career progressed. So, as we got older, every succeeding church that Dad served got bigger. With bigger churches comes more responsibility. It may be all these things combined. But after early childhood, I really don’t remember my dad being our spiritual mentor. He was great in every other aspect of being dad but his spiritual leadership of me and my brother when I reflect back on it was lacking.

As many great preacher’s kids that come out of preacher’s homes that go on to be great assets to the church of Jesus Christ, there are just as many who fall away from the church and/or grow up to be wild childs. I was one who struggled with church. I was one who lived a life of self pursuit. I was one who partied up as a teenager and as an adult. I was one of those PKs. Was it because my dad kind of ignored my spiritual development? Don’t get me wrong, I accept full responsibility for the choices I have made in life but did Dad’s desire to not be a preacher when he got home play a small role in my not coming to Christ until my late 30’s?

As I read through this passage for a third time, that was what I thought of. We can never just think our kids are going to get it. We must be their spiritual leaders. We must not take for granted that just by taking our kids to church that they will be tuned in, turned on, and saved by Jesus Christ. Now, with these thoughts in mind let’s read the passage again this morning, 1 Samuel 3:1-4:1:

3 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.

2 One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle[a] near the Ark of God. 4 Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”

“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.

6 Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”

Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”

7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. 8 So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”

Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.

10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12 I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. 13 I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God[b] and he hasn’t disciplined them. 14 So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.”
Samuel Speaks for the Lord

15 Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then got up and opened the doors of the Tabernacle[c] as usual. He was afraid to tell Eli what the Lord had said to him. 16 But Eli called out to him, “Samuel, my son.”

“Here I am,” Samuel replied.

17 “What did the Lord say to you? Tell me everything. And may God strike you and even kill you if you hide anything from me!” 18 So Samuel told Eli everything; he didn’t hold anything back. “It is the Lord’s will,” Eli replied. “Let him do what he thinks best.”

19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. 20 And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and gave messages to Samuel there at the Tabernacle.
4 And Samuel’s words went out to all the people of Israel.

Here, in this passage, we see that Eli had spent his entire life in service to God. His responsibility was to oversee all the worship in Israel. However, in pursuing this great mission, he neglected the responsibilities in his own home. Don’t let your desire to do God’s work cause you to neglect your family. If you do, your mission may degenerate into a quest for personal importance, and your family will suffer the consequences of your neglect.

Let us as parents never take for granted that our kids just by exposure to our faith that they will “get it”! We must speak to them about Jesus Christ. We must evangelize our own children. We must guide them to the cross and pray daily that they accept Christ as their Savior early (so that they won’t have to live the life of idolatry and sinful lusts that we lived). We must and equally as important once they accept Christ as their own personal Savior disciple our children. We must observe the fruits of their spirit and guide them in all righteousness. We must teach them how to mature in their walk with Jesus. We must take an active role in discipling our children – not depending on them to get it by osmosis, not depending on them to get it by exposure, not depending on them to get from their children’s pastor or the youth pastor. We have to do it. It is the most important aspect of our job as parents – to teach, to lead our kids to the cross, and to lead and to teach them after the cross. It has eternal importance.

Amen and Amen.

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Deuteronomy 27:1-10

The Altar at Mount Ebal

It is one thing to be accepted as a member of God’s people. It is another to grow up into a mature member of God’s people. The difference is one is a convert and the other is a disciple. Jesus, in the Great Commission, did not say Go and make converts. He said Go and make disciples. Certainly, you cannot make disciples if conversion does not occur first. However, Jesus wanted us to grow people in the faith once they had accepted him as Savior and Lord. That is what many modern churches are dealing with. My church and many like it that have sprung up on the Christian church landscape over the past 20 years specialize in attracting those who have never heard of a relationship with a Savior named Jesus Christ or those who have been away from church for many years.

 

Churches like ours are reaching people with the gospel message in ways that traditional, old-school churches with their denominational affiliation in their name cannot or are not willing to reach. Many people are afraid of churches with denominations in their name. They are afraid of church named after families and have memorial in their name. Many people outside God’s family today are afraid of churches with mammoth buildings made of brick and have three stories of classrooms attached to a large and ornate sanctuary. Many who are far from God are afraid of fancy suits and fashionable dresses. That’s where our church and others like it come in. Our worship center some say looks like a Harley shop with its combination of white and black with orange striping. It is not a brick and mortar building. It is a iron frame building. Our people have always felt that they could come in their blue jeans. It is a come-as-you-are church. We are the classic modern church. We are only 10 years old. We seek and attract those who are far from God. We are what is called a seeker church, an attractional church.

 

We are a toddler of a church compared to many of the traditional churches in our area. One of things that we have come to realize as part of beginning our second decade of existence is that we have had a problem with “stickiness” over the past 3 to 4 years. We grew rapidly in the first 6 to 7 years of our existence. However, during the past three to four years, we have begun losing attendees at about the same rate that we have been attracting new ones. As a result, our growth rate has slowed. What we have learned is that in order to make our church “sticky” (where people come to a church and stay), we needed to help our people grow in the faith. That’s what traditional churches have done well for years – Christian education and discipleship.

 

In order for us to have a church of maturing Christians who look more like Christ each day and less like the world each day, we must teach what we believe as Christians, why we believe, and how to apply those beliefs in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christian beliefs. We must develop Christ followers who know and understand Scripture so that they can make Christ-like choices in their lives. This time, last year we brought Pastor Tim back from the church planting field and re-established the basics for believers class that he had been in charge of before he left to plant LifeSong Church, Manchester, CT. As well, we are now working on developing Christian education over and above that basics for believers class. We are teaching classes on all aspects of being a part of the body of Christ and knowing God’s Word and experiencing God in deeper and more profound ways. We know that we have to do more than attract people to Jesus and lead them to the cross but we have to teach them how to live beyond kneeling at the cross. We cannot simply stay kneeled at the cross. We must emerge and lived changed lives. Without Christian education and biblical knowledge, a spiritual infant will remain undeveloped and still act a whole lot like the world.

 

That need to make disciples and not just converts is what I thought of this morning when I read this passage, Deuteronomy 27:1-10. You’ll see why after we read through it:

 

27 Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people: “Keep all these commands that I give you today. 2 When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. 3 Write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 4 And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster. 5 Build there an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. Do not use any iron tool on them. 6 Build the altar of the Lord your God with fieldstones and offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God. 7 Sacrifice fellowship offerings there, eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the Lord your God. 8 And you shall write very clearly all the words of this law on these stones you have set up.”

Curses From Mount Ebal

 

9 Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Be silent, Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the Lord your God. 10 Obey the Lord your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today.”

 

Here in this passage, we see that Moses, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was telling the people that they needed to keep God’s laws in the forefront of their society. The laws of God needed to be visible and ever-present in their lives. By stating that it needed to be made of natural, uncut stones, to me, that means that God did not want His word dresses up. He did not want it added to or taken away. He just wanted His Word, His Law, made clear and unadulterated. But most of all He wanted His Word before His people each and every day so that it would be an ever-present part of their lives.

 

The only way we internalize God’s Word is through constant exposure to it. As we learn it and become more and more familiar with it, God’s Word becomes a part of our nature. We know how to handle situations according to His ways. When we know Scripture, we are able to call it up in our minds when we face situations where we do not know how to handle them. When God’s Word is an ever-present part of our lives, it changes us from the inside out. The Holy Spirit helps us recall God’s Word and apply it to our lives. We are changed by it. We are matured by it. We become disciples by it.

 

That is what we are learning at our church is that in order to mature our people and help them grow deeper in Christ, we must encounter them with God’s Word in classroom and self-directed study settings such that our people keep God’s Word before us always and make it a part of our daily lives. Our church is requiring/suggesting that all of our people regardless of spiritual maturity go through the Basics class and then start choosing higher level classes after that just so that we as mature believers don’t “get fat and sassy” (an old Southern expression meaning that we can get complacent sometimes when we think we have it made). We as a church staff want our people to take the basics class before any others so that we are all on the same page and have the same understanding. We are getting pushback from some of our more mature members. But I find that pushback shortsighted. We are never too old to learn. We are never too mature to refresh. We are never completed in our discipleship. It is amazing to me how sometimes a passage of God’s Word can be read by me a 1000 times and it not hit home. However, there is that one time that it hits you like a ton of bricks and you find new revelation in a passage you’ve known by heart for decades.

 

We must keep God’s Word ever-present before us. It teaches anew each and every day. Keep God’s Word before us so that it is there with us every day. Even the oldest Christian can learn something new from an infinitely more wise God. Even the oldest Christian can find no revelation for this particular phase of their lives in Scripture that they glossed over for decades. God’s Word is alive applies to us anew each day. We are never too old to have God’s Word before us each and every day.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 3:21-29 (Part 1 of 2)

Moses Forbidden to Enter the Promised Land

If you are like me and you are a manager at your job, do you ever sometimes wish you could show your company how much you really mean to the company if you quit and took another job elsewhere? At Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI), I am the chief finance guy. In finance, it is often true that what you do goes unnoticed unless something blows up. I have to say to myself sometimes that the best compliment for a person is finance is that finance is not mentioned at all. That means the administrative/financial part of the business is operating as it should. Sometimes, I think, man, what would this company do without me? There is so much that I do on a daily basis that keeps the company running smoothly that nobody notices. What if I quit and took another job? What would happen? My ego tells me that FAI’s smooth operating finance function would fall apart, the company would fall apart without me. Then, as I say that, I dream of those first six months without and think of how many times that they would have to call me to figure stuff out. But, of course, they would eventually get up to speed but it would be gratifying to know that they would surely miss my many off-the-job-description duties that I perform to keep the company running smoothly and out of trouble. They would finally get it that it is my passion to see my company succeed and that I have had a “whatever it takes” attitude from day one on the job.

 

However, is that the way that I should be thinking? None of my staff is ready to take over my job. There is only one position that is built to train someone to take over my job. That position is that of my general ledger accountant. Do I see the person holding this position as able or even willing to take over my job. Therein lies the job of a leader. We must be able to replace ourselves in the organizations that we work for or, even, those we volunteer for. It is the essence of leadership to be able to replace yourself. It is like recruiting for college football teams and then getting those players ready to be the next man up. Teams like Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State that have been consistently successful over the past 7 or 8 years have the next man up mentality. Each of these programs gets the right talent for their systems and then trains them up. The names may change over the years but these teams continue to be successful regardless of the change in names of the players on the field. We must be that way in our organizations that we lead as well. Am I getting my general ledger accountant ready to take over, or will FAI have to suffer after I leave for months as they search for someone from the outside to come in and take my place.

 

Should I be right now assessing whether my general ledger accountant has the leadership capabilities and the smarts to take over after me. Can I make her into a leader? Can I develop her accounting skills? Can I get her to “get it” like I do? Can I move her from a task completion orientation to a big picture view of the company? Can I get her to see that she needs to understand how our entire company operates and not just our little corner of the store? What do I do if she simply is not the type of person that wants to be a leader or has the talent to be a leader. To be a leader you have to be willing to take on the reins of leadership and learn what you need to learn and you must be a person who has that certain charisma that causes others to follow. Will she? Can she? Those are questions to be answered. Do I have the right person in the right seat? And what do I do if I realize that she is not the right person?

 

When I think about it, I must come to the conclusion that I have not done a good enough job in replacing myself so far. It is often easier to just do something yourself than it is to teach someone what you know. I know that I hoard the more complex tasks of my job to (1) justify my position as the knowledge holder and (2) because it is just easier for me to do it because I know the nuances of our business (all the “what to do if ‘x’ happens” nuances) that come from 8 years on the job. But am I growing my people by hanging on to the knowledge and just doing these complex tasks myself. That is why at month-end I work more hours than anyone during the time in which we close the books and do our financial reporting. It is just easier for me to do the tough stuff than it is to allow, in my mind, someone to take it over and screw it up and then have to come in behind them to clean up their mess. Eight years ago, though, that was the way I learned. If I do not train my general ledger accountant to start taking over my tougher tasks, then, the department will indeed fall apart when I leave. What you want is, that even if they do have someone come in from the outside to take my place, that my people will be able to steer the ship until a new captain takes over. However, it would be best though if I trained up my general ledger accountant to take over. That would be the most seamless way. If I don’t do these things, the department will fall apart when I leave. That’s not how we want to leave our positions when we move on. We want the success to continue. We must leave our jobs, when we move on, better than we found them. The only way to do that is to develop the “next man up” mentality within our organizations. If we want to be the Alabamas, the Clemsons, the Ohio States of the world, we must develop those second and third string players so that we the first stringers graduate and leave the program that the program will continue to thrive when the second stringers become the starters. We must be able to replace ourselves with those underneath us by developing their talent so that they can maintain success or even take the organization to the next level. Am I developing that next man up mentality at FAI? Good question.

 

That idea of developing that next man up mentality was what I thought when I read today’s passage, Deuteronomy 3:21-29, this morning. Let’s read it together now:

 

21 At that time I commanded Joshua: “You have seen with your own eyes all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings. The Lord will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. 22 Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”

 

23 At that time I pleaded with the Lord: 24 “Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? 25 Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

 

26 But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. 27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. 28 But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” 29 So we stayed in the valley near Beth Peor.

 

From the middle of Genesis forward through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and now in Deuteronomy, Moses has been the central figure of the people of Israel. He is to Israel what DeShaun Watson is the Clemson football team. If you follow college football, you know that over the past three seasons, Mr. Watson has taken Clemson football to a new level of consistent excellence. He is an amazingly talented quarterback. This season will be his last at Clemson as he graduates college in December and will likely be a first round draft choice in the NFL draft this spring. He has been the central figure of Clemson football for the past three seasons. He is an amazing talent and equally good as the solid leader of the team. He will be sorely missed. He is a once in a generation talent. Will Clemson be as good the next few seasons beginning with the 2017 season without him. Who knows? However, if the coaching staff is worth its salt, they have been developing the next man up so that Clemson will continue its rise to elite status among college football programs. Recruitment and development of players is the key to long-term success in college football so that “next man up” really does work.

 

Moses was the star quarterback of the Israelite team. He was the practical and spiritual leader of his team. However, throughout the wanderings in the desert for 40 years, and although he was the first string quarterback, he was tutoring and coaching up the next quarterback, Joshua. Joshua was learning from the current first string quarterback, Moses. It is now time for Moses to leave the team. He has used up his eligibility and a new quarterback must emerge. However, if Moses had not kept Joshua by his side these years, Joshua would not have been ready to be the next man up.

 

So, too, must I develop the people that work for me at FAI and in my part-time role at LifeSong Church. I must develop my general ledger accountant at FAI to be the next man, well..uh…, woman up. If I cannot hand the job off to her when I leave FAI (whenever that may be), then, I will be like a football team that had great success because of a specific group of recruits but then falls off the map after they leave. If I have not developed the finance & admin manager at LifeSong to be the director by the time (if ever) that I leave, then I will have done my church a disservice. Vacuums are created when we do not develop the next man up. Chaos ensues. We want to make leadership a pipeline of next women and men up.

 

Jesus developed this mentality among the disciples. The organization, Jesus’ church, survives to this day because he invested in the development of his direct reports. And they did the same for their next generation. And here you and I sit as Christ followers because of the next man up mentality of Jesus. He set the example for us in leadership. We must follow develop new baby Christians into mature Christians and we must develop mature Christians into new leaders who will ensure the success and survival of His church. We never stop recruiting. We never stop developing. We never stop the next man up mentality.

 

Amen and Amen.