Today …

I am leaving on a jet plane. I know when I’ll be back again.

I admit, I’m fairly nervous. This isn’t like any of the trips people in my family have taken in the past.

I know I speak the language, but my skills are rusty. I might not be understood. I might not understand.

I am used to the laid-back country life of the sticks, but I’ll be introduced to the hustle and bustle of a capital city.

I wonder, did I bring the right gifts? Do I have to worry about an accidental insult?

I hope there aren’t any cultural issues, this isn’t exactly something that comes with an instruction manual.

But through it all, my traveling companion will be God, and I will most certainly need him every step of the way.

So today I am leaving on a jet plane. I know when I’ll be back again.

See you in a month.


Uncaring Souls

So there you are pulling into the Church parking lot. Time for the usual service, get in, get out, get on with life. ‘Hi, glad to see you here.’ ‘It’s good that you’re up on your feet.’ ‘That desert you made last week was wonderful, may I have a copy of the recipe?’ You say to a couple of people on your way in. Uh oh, not him – the guy that just showed up out of the blue three weeks ago. ‘Hi, how are you, Jim?’ Just say that you’re fine, that is all I really want to hear. I don’t really care about how you are. Jim says, ‘I could be better. I can’t work, so I’m getting by on disability. I just found out that I have a daughter, she’s fourteen and she doesn’t want anything to do with me. I’ve been feeling down for awhile because of everything going on, and on top of that I have some serious questions about scripture and nobody seems to have any answers.’ Fortunately before you have to say something nice, the worship band starts to play one of the old hymns. The pastor’s sermon rattles on about discipleship and after that you’re dismissed for the day. Your schedule rolls through your mind, pay the bills, organize the kid’s room, you have a spa appointment starting at three, and so on. You’re a Christian, life is good.

While looking up cultural taboos, I looked at their listing for the United States. It said: If somebody asks you how you are, they are expecting you to tell them that you are fine regardless of the truth. That really surprised me, how shallow we must be to ask somebody how they are and not care about them an iota? What would you have told Jim? ‘I’m sorry that you’re life is miserable, but you’re in the right place.’ ‘I’ve raised a few teenagers myself, I know how difficult it can be.’ ‘What sort of questions do you have? Maybe I can help you look for the answers. I know lots of resourceful teachers who have cleared up many difficult concepts for me.’ ‘If you need somebody to listen, here is my number, call me even in the dead of night if you have to.’ We often say that discipleship is sorely needed in the Church today. Jesus had disciples, early church history asserts that each of the disciples passed on what they learned to their very own disciples. For a time, the chain of teaching was unbroken. The thing is that before you can have a disciple, you must have first been a disciple. It’s not just an investment of knowledge, but it’s caring about a person and how they are all the time. Read back through the New Testament and pay attention to the Teacher-Disciple relationship in all its forms.

2 Timothy 4:13, “13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.”

Discipleship is grunt work, it is the carrying, the bringing, the packing, the cooking, the cleaning, etc.

1 Timothy 5:23, “23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

Discipleship is a relationship where secrets are few and advice is plentiful. Paul wanted Timothy to not just be well-off spiritually, but also physically. The two individuals had traveled far and wide together that Paul could not help but have known about Timothy’s health issues.

2 Timothy 2:1, “1You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

More than once, Paul calls Timothy his son, his true son, and his dear son. Being a disciple should be like being a member of the family, after all, we are all sons and daughters of the One true God.

Titus 1:5, ” 5The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.”

Discipleship is the responsibility of learning that leads to the responsibility of teaching. Paul didn’t have just Timothy, he had Titus and many others. Once they had learned enough, it was time to be tested.

It’s no wonder why the church lacks discipleship, we aren’t willing to be proper students, and therefore we are unqualified to teach. We are too busy living our lives that we can’t be bothered to care about each other, let alone how we live as Christians. We are very uncaring souls and this should not be! It was said that early Christians were the only ones who would dare tend to plague victims who had been kicked out of their own homes by their very own families. The same would not be said of us today, much to our shame. Has Christ changed? No. Has Christianity changed? Not really. Christians have changed though, and not for the better. So, will you learn? Will you teach what you have learned? Will you care about another individual as if he were your own kin? Why on earth wouldn’t you?

The Giver: Sew Much

2 Corinthians 9:6-15, “6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9As it is written:
   “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
      his righteousness endures forever.” 10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

[‘God loves a cheerful giver.’ is found here. It’s what you’re told every time they pass the hat, the plate, the minnow bucket, what have you. What about the rest of the verses? Do you know what I like most about the sowing story? It’s that in those days every single farmer who sowed seed usually ate of the field he later harvested. If you sow a lot of seeds, then you will be able to eat more than if you sowed much fewer seeds. Sounds like good eats to me, especially if I’m sharing it at a very large table. Not only are we to be generous, but God will supply us with the seeds we are to sow. So we’re not really giving away our money, and it’s always easier to be generous with other people’s money.]

 12This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

[Here is the ultimate result, we are being generous to bring praise to God. Being generous is a trait the whole church sorely needs. We need to learn not to give out of the extra, but out of the whole of what we have. When you’re cup is overflowing, the only thing to do is to make sure that there is another cup on hand to catch what comes out of that. If the end result isn’t praise to God, then somebody somewhere is doing something wrong – and we need to fix that pronto.]