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Category Archives: Discipleship

The Unselfish Way of Jesus

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others….I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:24, 33; 11:1)

The Apostle Paul’s theme in this section is the importance of thoughtfully seeking the good of others in our actions. We are not to selfishly pursue an individualistic good in what we do or how we live. This is Paul’s example, which he learned from Christ. The way of Jesus is the unselfish way.

Jesus’ Selfless Example
First, it is important to grasp Jesus’ selfless example. He endured the Cross for the joy set before Him, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God’s throne (Hebrews 12:2). He did this so that He could bring many people into the glorious family of God. Jesus’ aim was to lead many to Himself by laying down His life. He aimed for a greater, selfless goal and we, too, should live selflessly for the greater aim of God’s purposes in this world and our lives.

Letting Go of Individualistic Good
At times this means, secondarily, that we must forego some apparent ‘goods’ that come into conflict with the good of others. For the believers in Corinth this meant considering certain freedoms they enjoyed, such as the eating of meals, in light of how those freedoms would effect others and their life of faith. When we see that certain actions or ways of living that we enjoy are inhibiting others from experiencing God, then we must reconsider what we are doing or how we are living. With that consideration in view, we may even need to let go of those actions or ways of life either temporarily or permanently. This, of course, flies in the face of self-actualization or the pursuit of total freedom so strongly promoted in our world today. In God, our grace-given freedom is a liberation from sin into a new sort of life characterized by God’s truth and righteousness. That way in God does not release us from all the demands of others but intricately binds us together with others under God.

Should We Seek Ill for Ourselves?
Third, we must understand that seeking the good of others does not mean seeking ill for ourselves. Pursuing ill for ourselves is not helpful for anyone. Without a doubt we may face trials and endure hardship in life, but seeking the good of others must also include good for ourselves. Paul’s words here are aimed at a sort of godless selfishness which does not take into account the lives of others. He is not asking the Corinthians – or us – to set aside helpful self-awareness or self-care. It is important that we move beyond guilt-ridden lies from the evil one that say any thought of ourselves is selfish and not honoring to God. It is important to note that the interpersonal element of the ‘Great Commandment’ given by Jesus reads: “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

The equation here means acknowledging what we would like to seek for ourselves, yet placing it on the table of consideration with the needs of others before God’s caring and purposeful eye. Ultimately, we must say with our Savior, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.” Then we move forward, like Jesus, for the joy set before us in obedience to God with appropriate love for others in the unselfish way.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2014 in Discipleship

 

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The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Thankful bannerEvery year in the US, we mark out a day to celebrate what we have been given. Thanksgiving Day, in my opinion, is actually one of the most amazing moments in our culture. At a national level, we set aside time from work and normal routines to simply celebrate and enjoy God’s goodness. Of course, like all things, Thanksgiving can be trivialized by commercialism, but it is still a fascinating moment in our country’s history and experience.

The wonder of our life with God is that each day spent following Jesus propels us into thanksgiving. We have been talking about that over the last few weeks here at Eastbrook Church in our series, “Thankful.” The abundance we have received from God through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is beyond words. Throughout the Scripture, we encounter many sacrifices offered in worship of God. In Psalm 50, however, we encounter a different kind of sacrifice:

I have no complaint about your sacrifices
or the burnt offerings you constantly offer.
But I do not need the bulls from your barns
or the goats from your pens.
For all the animals of the forest are Mine,
and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:8-10, NLT) Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in Discipleship

 

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Top 15 Bible Verses to Memorize

This past weekend during my message from Psalm 1:4-6, “Chaff,” I spent some time talking about the importance of Bible memorization for our growth as followers of Jesus Christ.

One of the priorities we are working on together at Eastbrook Church is “to grow as a disciple-making church.” If we truly want to be disciples – followers – of Jesus Christ, not just church attenders or religious cheerleaders on the sidelines, then we need to take seriously the call to order our lives around the life and teaching of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture memorization helps us to do this by taking mere reading of Scripture and turning it into a tool for further reflection toward a God-focused life. (Click here for some aids for Scripture memorization.)

I said I would be happy to share a list of my top Bible verses to memorize. While I think the entire Bible is important and would encourage everyone to read through all of the Bible, I recommend these 15 Scripture passages as good places to start in committing God’s truth into our memory:

  1. John 3:16-17 – these two short verses provide a helpful summary of the gospel
  2. Romans 3:23 & 6:23 – Paul outlines the power of sin and the power of the gospel in Jesus Christ in a powerful way in these two key verses
  3. 1 John 1:9 – a simple description of the power of forgiveness found in Jesus Christ
  4. Mark 12:29-31 – ‘The Great Commandment’ – Jesus answers a question about what the greatest of all God’s commandments is by bringing together love for God with love for others Read the rest of this entry »
 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Discipleship

 

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Our Mind and Our Choices

This past weekend in my message from Psalm 1:1-2, “Roots,” I specifically mentioned the power within our thoughts and interior life in relationship to discipleship. Here are some further comments on this point from Dallas Willard, one of the most influential writers on discipleship in our current time, in his book The Divine Conspiracy. I am interested to hear your comments on Willard’s words:

Now we need to understand that what simply occupies our mind very largely governs what we do. It sets the emotional tone out of which our action flows, and it projects the possible courses of action available to us. Also, the mind, though of little power on its own, is the place of our widest and most basic freedom. This is true in both a direct and an indirect sense. Of all the things we do, we have more freedom with respect to what we think of, where we will place our mind, than anything else. And the freedom of thinking is a direct freedom wherever it is present. We need not do something else in order to exercise it. We simply turn our mind to whatever it is we choose to think of. The deepest revelation of our character is what we choose to dwell on in thought, what constantly occupies our mind – as well as what we can or cannot even think of….

When we come to the task of developing disciples into the fullness of Christ, we must be very clear that one main part, and by far the most fundamental, is to form the insights and habits of the student’s mind so that it stay directed toward God.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Discipleship

 

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Tips and Tools for Memorizing Scripture

As we prepare for our upcoming series, “Rooted,” I am encouraging people to try to memorize Psalm 1.

In Psalm 1:3, we read these words:

…but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

Why Memorize Scripture

We see here both the call to delight in God’s instruction and also to meditate upon it steadily. I believe that memorizing Scripture helps us to both delight and steadily meditate on God’s truth. Memorization enables us to more deeply understand and reflect on what we are reading. As we ponder the words we are trying to work into our memory, we will begin to see – from our own reflection and by the Holy Spirit’s work in us – ways in which these truths can work themselves more deeply into our lives. What we think about has a significant impact upon our inner and outer lives. When God’s truth becomes a constant part of our mental activity we begin to live into Paul’s words in Romans 12:2:

…be transformed by the renewing of your mind

How to Memorize Scripture

There are no end of approaches to Scripture memorization, but let me suggest three here that I have used at different times in my life: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2013 in Discipleship, Eastbrook

 

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Runner Glad to Finish Second

Here is the story that I shared in my message, “Aiming for Second Place,” this weekend that gives us a picture of what it looks like to aim for second place:

Oscar Fernandez AnayaWhen Abel Mutai of Kenya – an Olympic bronze medalist – was near the finish line at a cross country race in Burlada, Navarre (nah – VAR), Spain, this past December, he slowed down to celebrate his victory. There was just one problem with his celebration: he hadn’t crossed the finish line yet but was about 10 meters away. Fans nearby began to call out to Mutai in Spanish but, since he doesn’t speak Spanish, he did not understand what they were saying.

The next closest runner, Iván Fernández Anaya, quickly caught up with him, and then did something that was absolutely right yet cuts against the tendencies of competition. Instead of exploiting Mutai’s mistake to speed past and claim an unlikely victory, Fernández stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the finish line, letting him win first place and taking second himself.

When asked afterwards why he did what he did, Fernández said: “”I didn’t deserve to win it. I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed if he hadn’t made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.”[1]


[1] “Ivan Fernandez Anaya, Spanish Runner, Intentionally Loses Race So Opponent Can Win.” Huffington Post Online. Accessed July 13, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/18/ivan-fernandez-anaya-hone_n_2505360.html.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Discipleship

 

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Relevant Article: “Why I’m Not Giving Up on Church”

Relevant Magazine published an online article that I wrote today entitled “Why I’m Not Giving Up on Church.” It’s a bit of my own reflections on why the church is still relevant and important for us today. You can read the entire article at their web-site, but here are the first few paragraphs:

In 2011 the largest denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention, announced the results of a survey showing a significant decline in baptisms and church membership. Ed Stetzer, a missioligist and researcher with Lifeway Research, commented at the time: “This is not a blip. This is a trend. And the trend is one of decline.”

In the very same year, across the Atlantic, a report on the Church of England highlighted the challenges it was facing: aging congregations, faltering clergy recruitment and waning attendance. While church leaders used words like “crisis” and “time bomb,” the report predicted the church would likely be extinct within 20 years.

More recently, the Pew Research Center released a study on the state of religion in the United States entitled “‘Nones’ on the Rise.” The study brings into focus the increasing growth rate of those who do not identify with any religion at all. Nearly one-fifth of the U.S. adult population—and one-third of those under the age of 30—identify in this way; an increase from 15 percent just 5 years earlier.

For many people, these are signs that the church is, if not already dead, steadily moving toward the grave. And many have been calling for followers of Jesus to return to the original vision for our faith…[read the entire article here]

 

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