Four Views on …

I’ve seen a million books titled “Four Views on” some part of theology. In general, those books are good reads if the spread of views is wide enough to make me think a bit.

Today I saw a book advertised titled “Four Views on Israel and the Church”. Sounds good, says I. Something I’m interested in.

So I looked see what the four views covered were:

  • Traditional covenental
  • Traditional dispensational
  • Progressive covenental
  • Progressive dispensational

Or,

  • Chocolate covered peanuts
  • Peanuts covered with chocolate
  • Chocolate with peanuts inside
  • Peanuts with chocolate outside

No wonder people have no theological sense.

Scientist and Believer

I am a scientist and I am a follower of Jesus.

People often assume that I am in conflict because of this. They think that science and faith are in opposition.

I certainly do not think that.

In both science and Christianity, I am trying to understand the world we have. I’m looking for the truth. The truth cannot conflict with the truth.

I suppose people who cling to a young earth creationism have a conflict with science. But YEC is not Christianity; it is an aberration of belief, unwarranted by good biblical interpretation.

Truth found in the search requires a commitment to the finding. Thus, I am all in as a disciple of Jesus. My commitment does not waver. I will follow him.

My Discipleship Article

Discipleship in Our Groups

Our pastor has laid out for us an ongoing plan for moving from being a good church to being a great church. There are five points of focus to accomplish that goal, the last of which is discipleship. Discipleship is an area in which our groups can have a major impact. Groups are tailor made for such a purpose.

Additionally, our denominational mission statement says that the church exists “to make Christlike disciples in the nations.” This is, of course, a reflection of what Jesus said as he was returning to the Father.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:16–20, ESV)

The primary task Jesus gave to the Eleven was to go and make disciples. By implication, that is also our main task. The church has many functions within society and within its own community, but the primary job is to go and make disciples.

It follows that the groups of our church should also be involved in making disciples. Among other functions of our groups, such as fellowship, accountability, encouragement, study, we must never forget to focus on discipleship.

What is a disciple?

  • At the heart of it, a disciple is one who learns from another. In the context of the life of Jesus, a disciple is one who follows Jesus. For us, this following and learning does not take place so much in the face to face way it did for the original disciples of Jesus, but we still have a face to face relationship with him, mediated by the Holy Spirit that he sent to his followers after he left them.
  • We have God’s Word, as well, to help us in our following of Jesus. The gospels and the epistles–and even the Old Testament–are full of instructions for how to follow Jesus.
  • The bottom line is that real discipleship demands a level of commitment and loyalty far beyond the ordinary. To his disciples (and through them to us) Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15, ESV) We must admit that this teaching does not leave a lot of wiggle room.
  • A disciple is not casual about her or his relationship with God. For a disciple, that relationship is at the center of all of life. It does not mean that we abandon all our other pursuits and retreat to a monastery. Instead, it means having an orientation to life that has Christ at the center and God as the goal. Paul said, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17, ESV) That’s the way a disciple lives.

But what does it mean to make a disciple? And how can we do it?

  • Essentially, we take the raw material God gives us and process it to add value. That is, we start with Christians in whatever state they are in and provide to them the instruction and the motivation to become disciples, or to become better and better disciples.
  • This making of disciples is not a cookie cutter process. Some people will grow through a group Bible study and some people will need one-on-one coaching. As group leaders, we need to be aware of the status and the needs of the people in our groups, and we need to provide—one way or another—what is needed to bring people to real discipleship.

But how does this affect the life of our group?

  • It is important to consider discipleship a major goal of any gathering of the group. Even a purely social gathering can be an occasion for showing people how to live in a Christlike manner.
  • Material for study should be chosen with a view toward helping group members grow in Christ. The primary focus should be on what God has to say to us.
  • The leaders of the group should be continually assessing the growth of the group members. This may sound on the surface like it is judgmental, but in fact, this kind of discernment is crucial for any leader. Leading and teaching a group is a truly important responsibility in the church, and the task should not be taken lightly.
  • Awareness of individual needs is something that develops as the group becomes more and more cohesive and people are freed to share the deep stuff of their lives. Usually this requires the leaders and the more spiritually mature members to open up about the issues in their own walks with Jesus. The less mature members will then be more apt to follow suit, and this is the state in which true discipleship begins. If the mature members seem to have it all together, the immature members will not be encouraged to share.
  • Sometimes this will require the pairing up of two people in the group for mentoring sessions outside of the group setting. But it always takes a great deal of discernment and tailoring of teaching to accommodate the real world group you find yourself in and leading.
  • There is always more to leading a group than could ever be written down in a job description. Leading a group is a tremendous responsibility; it is where the rubber meets the road. This is the place in church life where it is all about person-to-person relationships.

We hope to encourage you in your work as a group leader/teacher. It is a big responsibility, but you have many resources at your disposal. Most importantly, God is on your side. We must rely on him all the time and continually pray for our groups.

We have two main resources to lean on. We need the Word of God, and we need the Holy Spirit. It has been said that if we have the Word, but no Spirit, we dry up. If we have the Spirit, but no Word, we blow up. But if we have the Word and the Spirt, we grow up.

My Sweetie

Carol in the early 70s, before I even knew her.

Two observations:

  • She is just as beautiful today, if not more beautiful.
  • Her hair today is lighter but still red. She has never colored it.

Making Disciples

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we, the church, should go about making disciples as instructed to by Jesus.

My thinking has come around to the ages-old concept of living life together. As Jesus lived life with his close followers, we must approximate the same thing if we hope to make disciples for Jesus.

Obviously, we won’t live and travel together (most of us, anyway) but if our church is truly the community that God means for it to be, we can still, in some way, do life together.

Do life together. That is the mantra of Jeff, one of the most successful group leaders at our church. And his group has all the earmarks of just such a community.

Somehow we need to surrender the busyness of our family and work lives and become a community that does life together.

How is it going?

That’s the question people ask me all the time: How’s it going? or How you doing?

Well, I guess I’m doing alright.

My own bone marrow has suffered an almost total failure, so I’m not producing and red blood cells or platelets. Red cells carry oxygen out to the cells in the body and carbon dioxide back out to the lungs to be exhaled. Platelets are part of the complicated system of blood clotting.

The lack of red cell production means that I am not replacing cells that die off, as they do. This means I have less capacity to carry oxygen to the cells to burn carbs, and thus I have very low energy levels.

The lack of platelet production means that I bruise easily and a lot, sometimes for no reason at all that we know of. So far most of these bruises have stayed away from my face. If I get a big bruise on my face I’ll probably have to avoid public for a couple weeks.

So I’m losing—and not replacing—red cells at a rate of about one unit a week. A unit is the amount of blood they collect when you donate blood. Platelets are at a very low level, and there isn’t much to be done about that.

While I can’t produce these cells, I am blessed by many people who can and who are willing to share. Every two weeks I go to the hospital and get a unit of platelets and two units of red cells. The platelets only last a few days, but the red cells keep me alive for another two weeks. Not at normal levels, but alive.

If you ever feel like your blood donations are taken for granted, let me assure you that all donations are appreciated and your blood is always used by someone who needs it.

My frequency of needing red cells had accelerated for the last five years until I got to this current rate of a unit a week. That has been surprisingly regular for over a year. No one can guess how long this regimen will last. In fact, it’s rather unexpected that it has been stable this long. I praise God that this is available, even though I’ve been known to grouse around a bit on my hospital days. Shame after me.

My dear wife Carol is the best helper you could ever ask for. One of my earlier unsuccessful treatments made my cataracts pretty bad, so she has to do almost all the driving for us. The little convertible sports car seems to help with her enthusiasm for driving, though. I’ve lost my taste for a lot of foods that I used to enjoy, and she is faithful to make lunches that are always my very favorite things. She has to stay home more than she would like, but she hardly ever complains about it, and she will watch Gunsmoke and First 48 with me until the cows come home.

Since I got sick, and maybe somewhat even before that, I unplugged from the news. I took this step for my mental health. Some people think I have “gone liberal” since I got sick, and they probably think my head is weak. But the truth is that I just don’t care much about politics and I have learned to see things from more than just the right side. The far right makes me just as sick as the far left, and maybe even sicker. I don’t really care who gets elected as the governor of Virginia—hey, I don’t live in Virginia. Any Christian who cares more about that than the study of scripture deserves what they get.

I have grown closer to my Father through this unending time of sickness. I know the time of my death will not be too long into the future. I don’t know anything at all about what happens after death, but I know for sure that when Christ returns I will be raised bodily from the grave and will live in his perfect kingdom on earth for the rest of eternity. That’s worth waiting for, and it is far from the best part of being a Christian.

Thanks for indulging me in this little update. I’d really rather not write about myself, but people always ask.