Discipleship: Program or Relationships

Intentional discipleship has been on my mind more and more these late summer days. Mostly because, I have assigned myself the task of developing some thinking about discipleship and how to proceed intentionally for Redland Church.

As frequently is the case, some word or thoughts come along by others which help me think deeper and wider and more intentionally about it. Such is the case today. I reviewed a post by Ben Sternke on his blog this morning which seemed very appropriate. I liked that he referred to Dallas Willard, one of my go-to-people on all things discipleship. And I liked that Ben pointed the reader away from program thinking to relationship thinking, which is something I have been practicing as I “disciple” or “mentor” young single adults over the past few years.

Here is his blog to see for yourself. https://gravityleadership.com/what-is-discipleship/#comment-2731


Manna, Then and Now

Recently, very recently, a friend of mine posted a picture on Instagram of a “manna bag.” Or more specifically, a display, at a conference, of manna bags. My interest immediately was piqued by the display. So I went to Google to discover more. https://www.lifecreativelyorganized.com/make-manna-bags-for-the-homeless/

In my research, I discovered these Manna Bags are commonly a gallon plastic bags filled with a variety of items including non-perishable food items. The purpose of these bags are as handouts to homeless people, especially the ones who stand at intersections with their hand-made sign stating “Homeless. Will work for food”. A local one is “Homeless. The Challenge is Real.”

Then, I immediately went about making my own bags, loosely based upon the model I found on line. Then I taught a group of middle schoolers about manna in Exodus 16, which we expanded it Elijah and the widow, to Jesus and feeding 5,000, to Matthew 25, Paul and Barnabas collecting for the saints of Jerusalem, soup kitchens, the Salvation Army, and Rise Against Hunger, the Redland Outreach Center, and elsewhere the local community.

I found considerable joy in this exercise, especially in letting God lead through His work shared by another, to the guidance of the Spirit to receive it in a fruitful way. Thanks be to God.


Faith Like A Long Run

Faith is like a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t know when I heard this pithy statement for the first time. It has laid in the back closet of my memory, and every once and while something brings it out of the closet.

This time was an article from the Boston Globe about Katherine Beiers, 85 years young, who had the honor of being the oldest runner in the 2018 Boston Marathon. The paper wrote:

Beiers said it took her 7 hours and 50 minutes to reach the finish line because she walked part of the way. It took her longer than usual, but she was proud of the fact that she was able to complete the grueling course in spite of pouring rain, bitter cold, and an unforgiving wind. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/04/19/woman-oldest-runner-boston-marathon/lpZxDHlO8sbJQkTyJtstDK/story.html

Faith is a marathon. Katherine began running at the age of 49. Many of us find our faith later in life. She ran her first marathon at the age of 51. It takes some time to build up faith and running skills. I suppose that Katherine had mentors in the beginning, and throughout her 37 years of marathoning. We all should have mentors in our faith, whether we are just beginning, or we have been at it for a long time.

The article also stated that her son John ran this year. She shared her love for marathons with someone else. I can imagine that she had been doing that all of the 37 years she had been running, she had been sharing her excitement for the sport. Though running can be a solitary venture, many find a way to share it in their ordinary lives. Faith is like a marathon. We run alone, and we run with others. We share our excitement as we go.

Faith is like a marathon. We all run to the same goal. That goal is Jesus Christ.

Katherine is already thinking about her next marathon.

Psalm 23 – Shepherd and Sheep

For most of us, the 23rd Psalm is about comfort, especially when we need it most. We need such comfort when life’s storm rise against us, and we struggle to bail out the boat with nothing but a spoon.

More importantly, the 23rd Psalm speaks of God, and what God is doing and what should be humankind’s response to Him. God makes it clear early in Scripture that He is a covenant-making God. The primary covenant is that God will be Israel’s God and that they will be God’s people. Thus, God reveals Himself as a God who calls a people to himself. In Christ Jesus, that covenant is transformed to be a covenant with neither Jew nor Gentile, but with all would submit themselves to be with God. Submit ourselves as sheep submit themselves to the Shepherd.

God, in Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd, fulfills all our basic needs, food, clean water, guidance, safety in trying times, and place with His goodness and where we might dwell forever. In return, He offers us a means to show gratitude through our submission to his will. Through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we are reconciled, brought back into the fold, made part of His flock and under his guidance, comfort, and safety. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Shepherd and Flock

This week we continue to seek understanding what it is to belong, behave, and believe as followers of Jesus Christ. We have discovered that we, Christians, come together at the foot of the Cross, and leave from the empty tomb to follow into wildernesses and hostile worlds a Crucified and Risen Lord.

This week we will reflect together on the 23rd Psalm. Just a few beginning thoughts. I think the psalm teaches us to whom we belong, the Good Shepherd, and that we are lead and guided by rod and staff, and that all is required of us is submissiveness to our Shepherd.

There is only one Good Shepherd. There is only One to whom we belong. There is only One to whom we submit, outside of our humble submission to each other in the name of that Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Community and belonging

Still thinking out loud this week on God’s gathering community to come together, not just for worship but to proclaim in its local place and time the gospel of Jesus, the Christ. In that community is not just salvation, but also more powerfully reconciliation and restoration. With reconciliation, we hear God’s claim on us is made clear, and with restoration the tarnish of our rejection of God is removed, and we can truly again say God has made humankind in the image of God.

This is all summed up by the covenant of God announced in the bold words “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” God is not only with us, but we are with God, in Christ Jesus, who fulfills in completeness the will of God. So God’s love is both expressed as reconciliation and restoration, for that is most apparent will towards his creation, especially humankind.

Thus, our need for belonging is most fully met by God’s gathering, saving, reconciling and restoring. Thanks be to God. Amen.

To Whom Do We Belong

This past Sunday we began a Sermon Series that is built upon the human need to belong. As I reflect upon a text and the whole biblical story every week, it is hard not to recognize the need of God’s creation, humankind, for belonging and community as a narrative that runs all the way through it like an underground river. It may come from a similar reflection that Augustine of Hippo prayed: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

The ministry of Jesus was, and is, a ministry of belonging. He invited young fishermen, tax collectors, and others from many walks of life in Galilee to “come and follow me.” Come and belong, and in time to learn a new way of life, and in time come to believe so that they exclaimed like Thomas in the Gospel of John to exclaim, “My Lord, My God” or like Peter and Paul proclaiming the gospel message to any who would listen. The point is that Jesus always began, “come and follow me.”

Waiting on Spring

The calendar says that we should be a few days into Spring. The weather reports disagree. Snow is on the forecast for the weekend, which has many asking where is Spring.

It has made me think about the disciples of Jesus and the Apostle of Paul who were waiting for the promised return of Jesus. I have read in several books on Paul which suggested that Paul and the other Apostles thought that Jesus’ return was imminent. I wonder at what time they began to grumble and ask when was Jesus returning.



A Thought on the tragedy at Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School

The battle rages again. Every time we have a mass shooting in the United States, the ideologues on both sides get into their forts and begin to defend their ideology and take pot shots at the other various ideologies in their forts. Thus, we continue to fail to resolve the issue at hand, the violent use of military style weapons by mentally ill persons against are children and other citizens of the land.

I would argue that until we recognize that this is a complicated issue with disparate elements and tensions, we will can not enter into the necessary dialogue to solve this very real problem. And it will happen again, and again. We need to talk about mental illness, violence in various medias like video games and movies, the availability of weapons built not for hunting or protection, but for inflicting optimized damage to enemy troops, sufficient security at public venues, and most certainly to teach and live a moral law that recognizes the value of human life for every person and community.

I would also argue that those of the Christian community who decry the loss of prayer in our public schools are possibly barking up the wrong tree. I think we should begin with our own homes and hearts. What is the prayer life of your family? For if there is prayer in the heart of all Christians, then it will offset in lack of prayer in any public school or even government building. Prayer is that powerful and wonderful, especially when it is about communion with our God, rather than sticking it to those of other faiths, and non-believers.

So, I stand with the young people of Marjoie Stoneman Douglas High School. We need to leave our forts and the insane defense of ideologies and offer them the solutions they need to be assured they are persons of value to us.

The Day After

On Monday, Christmas Day, we recognized the birth of Jesus. We call this the Incarnation; God became flesh.

Now it’s Wednesday. So what has changed. For those who do not believe probably nothing. For those who are Christian, much has changed. As Christians, we are called to trust a new narrative that this birth announces. The truth of God has been revealed in a historical person of flesh and bone and Spirit. If we trust this as the truth and the reality of our life, our lives should be new and fresh today.

What follows in the life of this child is the unfolding of the fullness of that reality, lived out in plain sight.