The Discipline of Discipleship

US Air Force 061029-f-8789C-041 Chuck Norris v...
US Air Force 061029-f-8789C-041 Chuck Norris visits the 386 AEW (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night at church we had a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) demonstration followed by some teaching.  It was a great time.  I got some great notes from the speakers.  The first speaker was Carlos Machado who is friends with Chuck Norris, the demi-god that is said to start fire by rubbing ice cubes together, can count to infinity, and has a living grizzly bear as a rug in his room; too afraid to move.  He also did some work on the show Walker, Texas Ranger.

The second was from Victor Marx (http://www.victormarx.com/) who tells the story of his tragic life growing up, and how he fully embraces Romans 8:28 when it says “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  You should really check out his story and documentary.

I will be talking more about these guys and some of the stuff they taught me soon, but for now I want to talk about something that comes from just the foundation of martial arts.

When you hear of martial arts, what do you think of? Fighting? Mr. Miyagi?  Martial arts is not just about getting strong and fighting to beat people up.  It is a discipline; it teaches discipline.

dis·ci·pline

  • training to act in accordance with rules; drill
  • activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training
  • the rigor or training effect of experience

The word discipline is a heavy word.  If you want to be really good at something it takes a lot of personal discipline to get good at it.  This goes with anything. Martial arts, musical instruments, carpentry, or programming.

To be good, to be effective, you must discipline yourself. You must work hard, and not just from time to time, but all the time.  These guys that are good at martial arts are good because they do it, every day.  Hours a day of training and dedication to get good.

I can speak from experience with this point, but from the other side.  I have tried to play multiple instruments in my life, and tried various disciplines of martial arts, but for one reason or another (or for one knee giving out or another), I had to give it up.  Sure, I had a couple months of training, but it never became a part of my life.  Nothing that I ever became dedicated about long enough to get good.

I do remember a few things though.  Like how to break some simple wrist holds (if you hold my wrist in just the right way) and I can, with a lot of effort, play part of Fur Elise on a keyboard still, but I’m not good at it.  I did not, or was not able to, stick with it enough to let it become a discipline in my life.

Ever wonder why the followers of Jesus called themselves disciples?

This thought crossed my mind last night while thinking on these things.  Is it a coincidence that these words sound like they have the same root word?

Is it possible to be a disciple of Jesus Christ without having the same kind of discipline towards Him that martial artists have in training?

If you have followed this website for any amount of time it is no surprise to you that I am a fan of Leonard Ravenhill.  Leonard Ravenhill was a preacher with a great ministry. He was able to reach people for Christ and encouraged a lot of people to be bold preachers, to be prayer warriors, and to long for personal revival in ones life.

But the ministry he had did not come to him easily, it was not something that he just participated in occasionally and one day something just clicked and he was deeply spiritual.  On the contrary, every part of his life and ministry had the impact it had on others’ lives only because he was disciplined.  It was only because he treated prayer like a discipline that he was effective at all.  His son, David, said this about him.

My father was a powerfully anointed preacher who could bring down the convicting presence of God in a way that very few can. People would begin making their way to the altar even before any type of invitation was given, their hearts pierced by the Word of God. His preaching was superceded only by his passion for prayer. Like the apostle Paul, he carried “the daily pressure of concern for the church.” Prayer was his life. Prior to his death in 1994 he told me he had received a number of requests from seminary students who wanted to come and see him for the sole purpose of having him lay his hands upon them in order to receive his “mantle.” With his typical dry British humor, but at the same time deadly serious, he said, “Everyone wants to have my mantle but nobody wants my sackcloth and ashes.”

Leonard Ravenhill. Why Revival Tarries (Kindle Locations 21-26). Kindle Edition.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 tells us that we are to train in the same way, with the same intensity that an athlete trains.  Not training to run, but to win.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

I remember being amazed during the Olympics that just ended at the athletic ability of each of these athletes.  It never came easy to them, well, maybe for Phelps (just kidding).  They gave their life to their sport, to not just doing a good job at it, but at being the best.  None of them trained for last placed, or trained for the bronze; they trained to win the gold.

The self-discipline required to do that was amazing.  Hours a day at the gym and training for years on end, giving up many of the pleasures of life we enjoy like deserts or watching tv and playing games.  Why did they do it? For a medal and for fame.

How much more, my brothers and sisters, how much more should we be training spiritually to take the gold.  Not for fame and fortune, but to know God, to draw closer to God.  To have more faith.

Faith comes from God

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, – Ephesians 2:8

And through reading scripture

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17

It makes us strive to live Holy before God, while Jesus works on completing our faith

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Being a Christian is not a weekend adventure, or morals we consult occasionally, it is a lifestyle of following Christ, a discipline of putting Him first in our life.  In every part of our life.

After all, this IS the call that Jesus gave to those who want to be His disciples.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. – Matthew 16:24

Oh father, please forgive me for the lukewarm attitude I have had towards you.  Help me to have the discipline to put you as a priority in my life every day, and to stop living a life that ignores you.  Father, give me a renewed vision of the goal, and give me an increase in faith.  Only you are worthy of the pursuit of my life.

Amen.

The Distraction of Entertainment

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 18:  A Costco custome...

In the previous articles in this series we discussed how we have neglected our mission field because we have gotten too comfortable in our life here, in the culture.  We think nothing of this problem but when we look at Scripture and it says that to be partakers of the things of this world makes us enemies with God, then we have to ask ourselves if it is time to give up the things of this earth to pursue God.

I know what many of you are thinking. At the suggestion of having to do away with some of your toys, your fun stuff, you will get all defensive. “But God wants us to enjoy our life” or “Don’t be so legalistic, we have freedom in Christ!”

I know you are thinking this because it is what I am thinking. My flesh wants to fight this thought. I see others enjoying their life here and I want to enjoy it too.

I am not saying that we are supposed to live in total depravity of everything fun. But would that really be a bad thing?

The closer I draw to Jesus the less I care about entertainment and the more I want to just serve Him. It doesn’t become a slave relationship where I can’t have any fun for fear of being struck by lightning; it becomes something where I love serving God so much that to think of spending my time playing games or watching tv just feels like such a waste in comparison!

You may think this is crazy talk, that I am still just denying myself the entertainment that our culture feels it is so entitled to, but when we get to heaven and stand before God, are we really going to be proud of all that time we spent in entertainment? Will we be proud that we spent 7,000 hours of our life watching television and movies, or another 20,000 hours playing video games?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3

The only time we find entertainment important in our lives is when we are not close with God. The more we focus on the things of God, the less time we want to spend on entertainment.

Think about when you were dating. When you start out getting to know each other and falling in love with each other.  Did you just spend all of your time staring at the tv? Is that how your relationship developed?  Sure you go to the movies and sometimes watch shows together but a majority of your time is spent talking, and interacting together.  This is how you got to know each other.

You fall in love with that person and want to spend all of your time with them. Just because you would rather spend time with your boyfriend or girlfriend instead of watch tv does not mean that you are depraving yourself of entertainment, does it? The entertainment truly doesn’t matter to you in comparison.

It is this way with God. The more we fall in love with God the less we care about the things of this world, the less we care about what the culture cares about.

So focus on heaven, focus on Christ, and focus on our mission here on Earth!

But beware, this world, satan, your flesh, will fight against you and distract you and make you lose that focus.

let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – Hebrews 12:1, 3

When everything goes wrong: Is the Devil against you, or God?

Pride is a funny sin. Not funny in a laughing sort of way, but funny in the way it acts. Or more accurately how we react to it.

As sinful humans still stuck in the flesh we always find a way to justify our sin. Sometimes it is obvious but we want to ignore it, and other times, especially with pride, it is extremely hard to acknowledge the sin.  You can be stuck in pride and not even realize it. What is worth, God hates pride, and if you are being prideful then God will resist you.

God resists the proud,But gives grace to the humble – James 4:6

There are times in our life when everything seems to be going wrong. Because of our pride and our arrogance we automatically assume that it is the Devil that brings these trials to us, so we seek God to overcome the trials.

But what we fail to recognize is that sometimes it is God bringing us the trials. God may allow or bring trials in your life for any reason at all, because He is sovereign and wants to prove a point (read the book of Job) or to rebuke.

Do not despise the chastening of the LORD,Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. – Hebrews 12:5

If it is to rebuke us, then we had better repent and listen.  I am currently reading the book “The Light and the Glory” by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. The basics of the book is digging into history and personal journals of people who had a hand in founding this nation, from Christopher Columbus and his crew to George Washington and showing how God had a hand in the creation of this nation. (Look for our review of the book soon)

I noticed something interesting as I read about Christopher Columbus. He was a man of God, who served God and felt called to go on this mission to bring Christ to the Indies. Not everything went right, it took him 8 years of petitions and being rejected before he was finally approved for the mission. Getting there was not an easy trip and he ran into trouble, but continuously in his life he prayed and sought God.  By seeking God doors were opened that reassured Christopher that his journey was a call from God.

But something happened when Christopher Columbus first discovered the isles. Pride started to kick in, along with greed. These two forces worked to tear down what God was doing, not only in the life of Christopher Columbus but in the lives of all of the travelers who went to settle.

Gold became the new motivating factor, replacing the original mission of bringing the gospel to the new land. One of the ships was lost when it took off in search for gold (of the three that set for, and reach the Americas), and when they were about a week from home the largest storm that any sailor of the time had ever seen wrecked havoc on the ship.

Columbus’ response was to turn to God, but not to repent of his own greed or pride. No, the thing about Pride is that it, by definition, prevents us from seeing it; until it is too late. Instead they cast lots to make bargains to try and appease God. Promising to go on pilgrimages or promising to go to mass and praise God as soon as they reached shore. (sound familiar?)  They made it home, but broken, but that didn’t matter because Columbus was the new hero! Given the title “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” (at Christopher Columbus’ request) he showed the fruits of this new land. A few natives they brought back to translate, animals, fruits, and of course, the gold. So of course Admiral Columbus was sanctioned to return.

The settlement he returned to had been killed, attacked by the Indians after the settlers had raped and robbed and murdered many of the locals. Instead of this leading them all, especial Columbus, to repentance, this led to war, or more like genocide. After several more outbreaks a new governor was sent to take charge. But, being full of pride Christopher Columbus would not have his authority taken away, and ended up being arrested, sent back to Spain in chains, then after nearly a year was permitted to return to the new found land, but told never to return the colony he had already established.

Determined to make his own way Christopher Columbus fought to go where the gold was. Fighting such strong storms and winds that it took them 38 days to make a 3 day journey. 2 of the ships were torn apart by worms and Admiral Columbus was sick with the fever. He found his gold, and more bloodshed. He made it home, rich, but according to his journal, regretful for how he failed in his original mission, to bring the light to the lost.

Pride, turned a man who was on a mission by God into a man of greed, causing bloodshed instead of bringing salvation.  When opposed by every force imaginable, storms, winds or lack of winds, sickness, loss of food and water, it only brought them to cry to God for help, not to repent of their own sin. Why? Pride, they were sure they were on the right course, being hindered by Satan. They couldn’t imagine that it was God trying to get their attention, trying to get them to repent.

What should I do?

If you are struggling right now, and it seems that everything is going against you, do not just assume that this is Satan trying to stop you on your “God given” (or possibly selfish) mission.

First you need to seek God. Repent, ask God to show you anything in your life that is hindering you from serving God. If you are honest with God, he will show you your honest self, like it or not. God will show you what needs to go.

If you are not caught in pride or sinning, seeking God will still show you how God wants you to proceed, even if the problems in your life are caused by Satan.

So the bottom line, seek God, humble yourself, and repent.

What is Hindering Us?

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. 2We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven.”

and

2 Peter 1:3 “As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness!”

The verse in Hebrews really spoke to me…showing me that it is imperative for our spiritual growth that we shed off all things which are hindering us (we MUST put aside those sins which our blocking our path to God and we must sacrifice even our own desires if our desires are what is hindering us).

And the verse in 2 Peter shows me that all we need for living a godly life is found in Jesus. He has the power to make us godly people…we only need to shed off those things which hinder us and draw upon Christ’s strength and power and we will be spiritually successful in all we do.

We are not to just lay aside the sin; we also are to lay aside the weight. We Christians need to periodically ask ourselves this question about the uncertain areas of our lives: Is it a wing or is it a weight?
Does it speed us on our way in our spiritual walk, in the race we run? Or is it a weight–something that is slowing us down?

Keep Your Eyes on Jesus

And let us run with endurance…keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish (Hebrews 12:2 NLT)

We are to run this difficult life with endurance….and how best can we persevere when we have to run through swamp or that mountainous terrain? We need to turn our eyes heaven-ward and keep our eyes on Jesus.

That’s what gave Stephen courage when he had to stand before his accusers who were ready to put him to death. He was given a glimpse of Jesus in heaven and declared, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Acts 7:56 NLT). Seeing this brief glimpse of Jesus gave Stephen the endurance he needed to run his race and finish it.

It is important….no….vital to keep our eyes on Jesus. Why? Because life will always disappoint us….circumstances will never always go “our way”, and at times the things that happen to us in life can devastate us and the people around us. Others are certain to let us down and they fall short of our expectations….feelings and emotions come and go and too often people act upon the emotions of the moment, forgetting the consequences that may lay ahead. But throughout all these tragedies, Jesus is always there looking out for us….interceding for us before the Father in heaven. He has run the race before we ever existed….He has run and He has been declared victorious! He is the ultimate winner and is willing and able to show US how to run….but in order for us to hear Him….we must keep looking to Him and abiding in Him…and we too will finish the race with victory!

While writing this, i’m reminding of that song (here’s a blast from the past for me) “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full on His wonderful face, and the things on earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

How Should Christians Deal With Suffering?

WHY WE AS CHRISTIANS MUST SUFFER

John 16:33 – This world is full of suffering, we are not exempt. Suffering is a sign that we are alive.
1 Peter 1:7 – Tests our faith to prove it is strong and real faith that gives glory to Jesus.
James 1:3 – When faith is tested Endurance can grow.
Proverbs 3:11-12 – God, being our Father must discipline us to show his love for us. Discipline is a sign of his love.
Hebrews 12:7-8 – God disciplines his children, we are his children.

WHAT SUFFERING DOES TO US
James 1:4 – Develops perseverance.
Perseverance – perseverance = makes one steadfast.
Steadfast = firm in belief, determination, or adherence : LOYAL.