Saturday, April 21, 2012

The “Hands-On” Approach


Matthew 9  (NKJV)
35  Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
36  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
37  Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
38  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

For years now I have been using one of my many quotes to point out the truth that, “Many people are willing to be used of God but not as many are willing to be prepared for use.”

During the past few months the Spirit of God has been stirring in my life and has had me focusing on the other side of that coin … the fact that:

Many are willing to use people but not as many are willing to prepare them for use.

·        I reference many, not all but many, in the “fast food” industry, for example, whose workers who are obviously unprepared.
·        Have you ever encountered an un-prepared or ill-prepared worker?
·        How would a system of no-training or inattention to preparation work out in the surgical, pharmaceutical or aeronautical fields?

Recently I surveyed my life and decided that I needed a hobby – something that I did just for myself – call it a stress reliever or maybe a personal growth adventure … at any rate, church, work and family had become the only things to which I paid any attention. My life was consumed from daylight to midnight with things which were important but demanding.

Although I was enjoying my life and doing what I wanted, stress was beginning to take a toll on my physical and mental well being. My blood pressure was beginning to rise and I seemed always in a hurry and continually tense. When it was suggested by some people who are important to the counsel of my life it sounded almost amusing. The initial thought of having to add one more thing to my schedule only provided more stress. Nonetheless I heeded the good advice of my trusted confidants and begin to imagine what I could do for fun.

After only a few days I decided on one thing I wanted to try which I could really call a hobby. I decided to learn how to fly a helicopter. Why not? I already had a fairly good bit of university education in a related arena of life and had accumulated more than 2000 hours Pilot In Command time in various single and multi-engine airplanes over the past 30 years. I’m a reasonably quick study and so I set aside two hours each night between 10pm and midnight and I read up on the differences that existed between fixed winged and rotary winged flight.

After a week I phoned and emailed several helicopter flight schools and asked about the most common problems fixed winged pilots encountered in transitioning to flying helicopters. I received some great information and advice. After another week I made an appointment to have my first hour of ground school and flight time.

Now, I am a licensed pilot fully certified and capable of flying in zero/zero conditions, with flight time inside and outside the US, qualified to fly single pilot in the clouds, rain, nighttime and over water, in mountainous regions and at flight levels where the big jets jumbo jets fly, and even though I have been a passenger in numerous helicopter flights around the world, and even though I had read up on and listened to more technical information about rotary wing flight dynamics than required by the FAA, and to add to that I have friends who are helicopter pilots that I talked to and to top it off I have slept at more than 100 Holiday Inn Expresses … In spite of all of this … you know that when I got to my appointment they would not give me the keys to their helicopter and just let me take off and do my own thing ??? What’s up with that???

Instead, I was assigned an instructor who talked to me, tested my knowledge, assessed my mental and physical aptitude, made me sit down and listen to him teach me what he felt were some basic principles and then what I considered to be some first grade do’s and don’ts, and then he walked me all around the helicopter and made me put my hand on so many bolts and belts and arms and blades and explained switches and preflight walk-thru and emergency procedures and what to do if I heard a stall horn or saw a warning light --- yada, yada, yada … And even then, he would not let me jump in and take off by myself.

Can you imagine that the instructor expected to get into the seat right beside me and let him walk me through starting procedures? Then he told me to keep my hands and feet off of the controls and just sit and observe how he lifted off, rotated to line up with his departure, nosed over, picked up speed and began to climb … why – we were a good 50 feet above the ground already going about 40 knots before he even let me put my hands on the collective and cyclic, and my feet on the rudders and even then he kept his hands and feet riding along with me on the controls, watching my every move, setting both goals and boundaries for my whole first hour.

Well, I’ve got a few hours under my belt now and although I am confident that I can take off, fly, transition to hover and land safely if I needed to by myself – nobody will let me yet and I would be a fool to go out and attempt it by myself right now. In fact, I plan to follow the FAA regulations and continue to get hands on training from a qualified instructor, including emergency procedures, until I have been duly signed off and fully released to solo. It would be stupid on my part and theirs to allow anything else.

And yet, even though Jesus has set an example for us of a “hands on instructor”, somehow we in the Church feel that simply reading the manual or watching a video or listening to a lecture will somehow qualify people to handle things which are much more critical than learning to fly a chopper, mix prescriptions or remove an appendix. Believers are supposed to be trained, equipped and qualified to handle the eternities of men, women, boys and girls in this generation and generations to come. Let me tell you, discipleship is meant to be a hands-on approach to learning and a hands-on approach to instructing. No other model but the “Jesus-model” will do!

What is the Jesus-Model? Jesus lived for 30 years learning everything He needed know and then He spent the rest of His life discipling others. Jesus did not feed the 5000 with fish and loaves … and even though He initially told His disciples to feed them He knew that they had no idea how to do it. That is until He showed them. He took the 5 barley loaves and 2 fish and blessed them, broke them and gave what He had broken to the His disciples. Then they in turn simply continued to do what they had seen Jesus demonstrate. They, by Jesus’ hands-on discipleship approach, took the bread and fish, blessed them, broke them and gave them to someone in the row of 50 people. Then they in turn followed the disciple’s example and received the blessed bread, broke and gave to others who took, blessed, broke and gave to others and so on until perhaps 15,000 were fed and yet … more than 12 baskets full of fish and bread were left over.

Why? Because the last person did what the first person did. The last in the line to receive the fish, took, blessed, broke and placed the extra in a basket. The poorest of the poor, the hungriest of the hungry, and the last in line had the same responsibility as did the first one … to do what Jesus did!

No doubt it was a miracle … a miracle that kept on going … but it was a hands-on miracle! That’s the Jesus-Model! This principle is repeated by the Apostle Paul when he told Timothy to keep discipleship going by training others to do what he had been trained to do so they could train still others. (2 Timothy 2:2) – It is nothing short of our command from the Lord Jesus Himself, which we call “The Great Commission”.

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

We are not told to go and be disciples … believers are not called to be pupils … we are told to go and make disciples … but to be instructors!

The fields are ripe unto harvest – the harvest is plentiful … people are hungry to be handled and desire to be discipled … who will obey the great commission … who will go and labor in my Father’s field? Our challenge is not to persuade people to become a disciple but rather our challenge is to disciple them. God needs more laborers … (not just teachers & preachers)

Teaching is not enough – if teaching were enough then hearing would be enough – and we all know that hearing alone won’t get anyone saved … and neither will it make anyone a disciple.

What will it take to accomplish the Great Commission? The same it took for Jesus to disciple His followers … it will take the same thing from the very last one as it took from the first … What will it take:
1.   It Will Take Time
2.   On Purpose
3.   With Others

I challenge you to embrace a hands-on approach to discipleship. If you have been discipled and are presently a fully devoted follower of Christ then give your time on purpose to others who are hungry. Don’t imagine that there is a shortage of people wanting to be equipped and willing to spend time with you specifically for that purpose.

If you say, “How can I disciple someone else?” – Disciple them the same way you were discipled. If you can’t remember how that happened – perhaps you weren’t discipled or maybe you need to spend time on purpose with someone else who will teach you what you can then begin to teach others. God needs more laborers.

If you are one in the multitudes of people hungry for more of God in your life, willing to invest quality time and present yourself as a student, open to learn the will, the Word and the ways of Jesus, begin by joining one of the monthly “Life Shape” groups which we currently have ongoing and make plans now to be a part of the weekly personal growth and discipleship Life Shape opportunity this June. It’s a beginning - do this and I promise more.

Will it make a difference in your life … “Yes!” it will … and, it will make a difference in every life you touch thereafter. It’s the “Hands-On” approach!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Lord’s Day


Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross at about 9am on a Friday morning just outside the City of Jerusalem. He was crucified between two thieves, one repentant of his sins and the other not. At noon the sun was covered by a mysterious darkness that lasted about 3 hours at which time the Lord cried with a loud voice, yielded up His Spirit and died.

The Jewish festival of Passover was to begin in earnest along with the Sabbath at sundown that day. In the rush to get these executions completed guards were sent to break the legs of those on the three crosses in order to expedite their deaths. When it was reported that Jesus was already dead, none of His bones were broken. Rather a follower of Jesus, a wealthy man named Joseph, claimed His body and accompanied by another secret disciple of Christ, hurriedly buried Jesus in a new tomb belonging to Joseph which was near Golgotha.

Jesus was wrapped in cloths and laid to rest with spices for burial before sundown on Friday – the day before the Sabbath – Day One. As He lay entombed it shortly became the Sabbath with the closing of the official Jewish day and a new day began – The Sabbath – Day Two. All day Saturday and into the evening our Lord’s body was in the grave. Sundown on Saturday brought another new day – Day Three.

Along about sunrise on Sunday morning, the first day of the week, there was an earthquake and an angel sent from heaven rolled the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. Having spoiled principalities and powers Jesus made a show of them openly and was resurrected to life as the undisputed King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus walked out of that garden tomb on the 3rd day victorious over death, hell and the grave.

Jesus first appeared to Mary that same Sunday morning, then to the two disciples as they walked on the road to Emmaus that Sunday evening. Later that same night Jesus also appeared to the disciples who were gathered together in a secret place. They were hiding for fear that those same people who had crucified the Lord would also arrest and condemn them.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples that first Sunday night, Thomas was absent from the meeting. Later those present attempted to convince Thomas that the Lord was alive but Thomas refused to believe saying that he would have to see the nail prints for himself. It is unknown what Jesus did, where He went and for what reasons why He was not seen of the disciples or any of His friends for several days.

It is evident from the first appearance that Jesus wished His disciples to go to the Galilee and to meet Him there. However the disciples did not leave Jerusalem all that week of Passover. Interestingly enough the Gospel of John records the next appearance of Jesus one week later, back in the same room, again on a Sunday, only this time Thomas is present.

John 20

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"

Eight days later – it was a Sunday …

Perhaps it was because Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday morning, or maybe it was accepted from His habit of showing up at the disciple’s Sunday gatherings, we can’t know which – but we do know that this pattern of meeting together, expecting the presence of the Lord to fill the meeting place and expecting to hear the voice of the Lord speak in their midst continued all throughout the New Testament.

Sunday being set aside as the Christian Sabbath was established and continued from that very first Sunday Resurrection Day celebration. Since that time the Apostles committed the first day of each week to worship of the resurrected Lord and even began to call it, “The Lord’s Day”.

The Apostle Paul had a habit of assembling disciples and new believers together for preaching on Sundays.

Acts 20

7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

(Hopefully I won’t preach until midnight … but if I do, don’t sit in the window and fall asleep – you might fall out and hurt yourself - - - you can read the rest of the story in Acts 20 if you aren’t familiar with the reference)

The Apostle Paul also gave instructions to the Churches he established concerning what he expected from them during their Sunday meetings:

1 Corinthians 16

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:

2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

Even as late as AD 95 or 96, over 60 years after that first Sunday morning Church service, the elder Apostle John, the last of the original Apostles of the Lamb, was still recognizing Sunday as “The Lord’s Day” and worshipping Jesus on that day in Spirit and in Truth, expecting His presence and listening for His voice.

Revelation 1

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,

11 saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," and, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia …”

Allow me to share 5 reasons why we Believers attend Church on Sunday. Church is a place where:

· We come together to worship Almighty God

· We expect to encounter the presence of His Spirit

· We listen to hear the voice of the Lord

· We join ourselves with others to fund Kingdom projects

· We go out from to spread the Good News

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Come and See


Firsts in the Bible have always intrigued me. Like the first message of the Bible, the first words God spoke to Adam and Eve, the first sermon Jesus preached or the first instructions given after the resurrection. I believe that things which are first are worth special attention. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all record two defining points of that first resurrection Sunday morning message. Point number one:

1. Come and see

Since that day there has been A Continual Open Invitation to come and see. It began with those that Sunday morning who went and saw the empty tomb. Mary saw Jesus and immediately she ran to tell others to come and see for themselves. Mary did much like that woman at the well in Samaria. She wanted everyone to see what she saw …

John 4:29 "Come and see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?"

The Gospel is a continual open invitation to:

· Whosoever will …

· He who hath an ear …

· Lest at any time …

(I remember witnessing to a truck driver who made a delivery to our apartment in Germany … He had an ear – I just had to unstop it!)

There is a Continual Open Invitation but there is also that Urgent Personal Invitation from others. Such was the case when Philip saw Jesus for himself … he immediately thought about his friend Nathanael who was skeptical but truly searching for answers:

John 1

45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

46 And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

Then there is also that Invitation which can only come from the Master:

John 1:39 Jesus said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day …

As I said earlier, there are two essential elements of that first resurrection message – the first was an invitation to come and see -

“Come and see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples” (Matthew 28)

The second element of the message that first resurrection Sunday morning defines our mission – in fact, it’s the “Great Commission”.

2. Go and tell

a. An Urgent Mission

b. Invite others to “come and see”

c. The mission is abounds with

i. Fear

ii. Joy

iii. Encouragement

iv. Confirmation

When I think of the urgent call to go and tell: (I recall one night, it was September 30th, I believe it was 1982. I remember the date because the next day, October 1st, was the opening day of squirrel season and me and a group of men from our Church had a tradition of going to squirrel camp each year. It was about 11:30 at night and I was already snuggled into my sleeping bag in my tent on the bank of a River in Northeast Texas. {A man from my church named Bruce Aaron} --- I felt an urgency … She prayed to receive Christ … Her urgent invitation came at a critical moment in life.)

Let’s read the account from the Gospel of Matthew keeping in mind that we too have received both a Personal Invitation and a Great Commission.

Matthew 28

1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.

2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.

4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

5 But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.

6 "He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come and see the place where the Lord lay.

7 "And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you."

8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.

10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."

As for me – I came and saw for myself – now – I’m going to tell everyone:

Jesus, Messiah of the Jews, Savior of the world, was born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, offered Himself as the Passover Lamb and was sacrificed for your sins on the Cross of Calvary, He died and was buried, He was raised to life again on the third day by the power of the Holy Spirit of Almighty God, Jesus was seen of many witnesses whose testimonies we still have today, this same Jesus ascended in the clouds to heaven where He sits in glory at the right hand of the Father making intercession for all mankind and awaiting the day when all things have been made ready so that He may return to earth and claim His rightful place as King for all eternity. This same Jesus is both Son of God and Son of Man, He is merciful, forgiving, kind and true … and this same Jesus wants to be your Savior, your Lord, and your Friend … “Come and see!”

If you have already seen … “Go and tell!”