Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So What Can We Do To Help?

Today is a big day for me. Today I hand over the clergy and churches of Anglican Mission’s Northeast Network to the care of other bishops.

Tomorrow, July 1, Erilynne and I get to focus on call2disciple – both locally at Apostles in CT and around the country.

Easy to do? Not really. I’ve been given the deep privilege of coming alongside some pretty amazing people in some incredibly fantastic churches and be their encourager, pastor, friend, bishop, and discipler in Christ Jesus. For nine years this has been my work and my joy. And I know for some it just seems odd that I’m ending all that today. Why? To focus on discipleship?

Yes. And to say this to you: So what can we do to help?

Good question when there’s a need. All of us know need. Real need. And once we know the need, we know how to ask.

But really stupid question when there is no need. Right?!?

We have an outstanding call2disciple staff. We know our passion:

• To promote discipleship in the local church
• To help Christian leaders do this work Jesus commanded
• To pour all our resources in discipling disciplers to make disciples

We also know what we can offer:

• call2disciple retreats
To hold Friday night-Saturday retreats where we actually do the work of discipleship. We model it so it can be lived out in the local church.

• discipling disciplers
We offer opportunity for clergy and Christian leaders to engage in a discipling relationship. The design of this is to come alongside and mentor those who oversee discipleship in their churches. It is especially helpful as a follow-up to the call2disciple retreats.

• call2disciple resources
The most important resource we offer is our “Call To Discipleship” two year series. Why is the most important? Because it brings new believers step by step into the maturity that is theirs in Christ Jesus. It is simply a tested tool that has had profound change in people’s lives.

All of our resources though are intended not just as Bible studies but for groups of Christians coming together to be discipled in Jesus.

• call2disciple blog
Week by week we want to bring encouragement both in writing and in videos. We want it to be a place that helps spark passion and blessing.

The question is this: Is there a need?

Some time ago the Christian world experienced the word COACH. The idea is simple: It’s hard being a Christian leader. How do we deal with division in our church? Why isn’t it growing? What can I do to be a more effective leader? I need help and I don’t know where to get it.

Seminars. Conferences. One-on-one relationships began. The need was there. Leaders wanting to become better leaders hired coaches to come alongside to help integrate change for the health and growth of their churches.

What we do is a little different.

We’re about making leaders become better disciplers. We want discipleship to happen in the local churches. We want our Christians to be mature in faith so they can be effective in His call on their lives for service. We want those older in Christian faith discipling those younger.

We want to do anything and everything we can to promote the work our Lord Jesus Christ called us to do: GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES.

Tomorrow, July 1, is a new day for us at call2disciple.

So what can we do to help?!?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Integrating in2our Lives


John Stott had all the right pieces in play.

As a young man, he believed in Jesus. He took time to pray, read his Bible, go to church. He tried to do good and be good. What more can you ask for?

How about this: In 1938 while at school he heard a sermon engaging the text of Revelation 3:20 where Jesus said:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me…”

Stott later recounted this moment:

For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the key-hole. I had even pushed pennies under the door in a vain attempt to pacify him. I had been baptized, yes and confirmed as well. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realizing it, I was holding Christ at arm's length, and keeping him outside. I knew that to open the door might have momentous consequences. I am profoundly grateful to him for enabling me to open the door. Looking back now over more than fifty years, I realize that that simple step has changed the entire direction, course and quality of my life." 1

There is movement here. First we realize what we’re doing. Know it or not, we’re keeping Him outside. At arm’s length.

Second, we realize He wants more. He wants to come in. To abide, to be at home with us, to be at table in dynamic communion with Him. No separation.

Third, we realize there’s something to do. He’s enabling us to open the door. To welcome the most profound change anyone will ever know.

And do it everyday. Keep the door open!

At the very heart of the sin nature is separation. As Christians living in this fallen world we’re going to constantly set up divides. Without knowing it. Gently, quietly closing the door. Again and again.

We fall back into patterns of doing all the right things. Having all the right answers. Even in our quiet time. But losing the intimacy of His fellowship.

And there comes a knock on the door. He wants more.

This is what I find in my life. He demands integration. This has always been the downfall of Christian leaders. We learn how to study Scripture. We become skilled in putting together teachings for others. We become brilliant in our presentations so that it’s appealing. Attractive. Winsome.

But we ourselves are untouched by the very truths we speak.

We do all the right things. But keep a safe distance. An arm’s length.

Something terrifying happens when we do this for a long time. We actually become dull of hearing. The Lord is speaking His word to others through us but His word has no place in us. It’s not penetrating. Not integrating.

And so He knocks. And knocks. And knocks. But we can’t hear.

Oh yes! We can tell the story of the day He enabled us to open the door and welcome Him into our lives. But here’s the story of today. Right now! He wants us to keep that door open. Always open. Intentionally open.

No separation. Never at arm’s length.

Is that you today?!? Ask yourself. Search your heart. Make a choice.

Keep the door open!

1 Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott: The Making of a Leader, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1999. p. 95

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do you think CHANGE is possible???

Have you ever answered no?


No- change is not possible in my life. In my spouse, family members or friends. Everyone tries. The world out there holds up all kinds of false hope. New plans for self-improvement. Same old same old. One step forward. Three steps back. More counseling. More books. More diet plans for the soul.


And then a certain resignation sets in. We actually don’t believe in change. Modification maybe. A little tweak here. A little tweak there. But the way we are is the way we are. It’s best to accept it in ourselves and in others.


Then you go to church one Sunday. A good preacher. Inspiring. Motivational. And you here words like this:


But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18



We nod our head because it’s true. It’s a promise of the Bible. It resonates with the one thing we all so deeply want and desperately need.


Hope. Hope for change and transformation.


But it creates tension inside us. On the one hand, we get the promises in the Bible. On the other hand, we know life experience. Come Monday morning a simple but despairing truth wins: THINGS DON’T CHANGE.


Unhealthy behavior patterns, sins that constantly dog us, hurts we inflict on each other or are inflicted on us, it’s how life is. It hasn’t changed. It won’t change. Our job at the end of the day is to accept it.


Right?


Believe it or not, there is an antidote. You can find it in the Bible. You can find it down through two thousand years of the Christian history. You can find it today if you’re interested. If you want to.


Let me give an example from the past. There was a preacher, hymn writer in the 18th century by the name of Philip Doddridge (1702-1751). He decided to write the story of his friend Colonel James Gardiner (1688-1745). A distinguished military man in the British army who died in combat.


But there’s a story about him Doddridge tells. You see Gardiner lived a godless life. Successful in his profession. A drinker. A womanizer. So one night he was waiting to secretly meet up with another man’s wife. While waiting he picked up a little Christian book which his mother had slipped into his luggage without his knowing it. Doddridge writes:


He thought he saw an unusual blaze of light fall on the book while he was reading, which at first he imagined might happen by some accident in the candle. But lifting up his eyes he apprehended to his extreme amazement that there was before him, as it were, suspended in the air, a visible representation of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, surrounded on all sides with a glory, and was impressed as if a voice or something equivalent to a voice had come to him to this effect… “O Sinner, did I suffer this for thee, and are these the return?”… Struck with so amazing a phenomenon as this, there remained hardly any life in him, so that he sank down in the armchair in which he sat and continued he knew not how long insensible…But, of course, from that point on he was a new man, a complete change in his life, he became a great saint.1


I read this and I am filled with hope. Filled with praise!


Here is testimony shouting: CHANGE IS POSSIBLE! How is it possible? Well it happened in this man’s life. Jesus Christ met Him. He stepped into his story.



Thank God for his mother. She believed change was possible. How despairing she could have become seeing her son living in such sin. But she didn’t stop praying. Believing. Expecting. And doing all things to help her son see Jesus.


The antidote is simple: It’s called TESTIMONY. There’s nothing like it. Read it in the Bible. Read it in the saints who’ve gone before us. Listen to it in the sound of Christians today. They are all saying the same thing. They are testifying that Jesus Christ is alive! That He meets with us. That in Him, all things are possible. And they expect Him to do great things in our day.


So let me ask you: Do you believe this is true? Do you think change is possible? Real change. Do you expect it? Are you praying for it? Well???



1 This story was taken from Living Water, Sermons on John 4 by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Crossway Books copyright 2009. pp 621-623.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

ARE YOU SEEKING GREAT THINGS FOR YOU?

Imagine having a life motto at the age of 17.


He had grown up in a Christian home. At 15 he began to journal. A practice that would attend his private devotions all his life.


On Sunday March 6th, 1859, the words of Jeremiah 45:5 struck him with force. He wrote that day:  Those words are still sounding in my ears. “Seekest thou great things for thyself, seek them not.” It has always been one of my dreams to be distinguished. I have always been seeking great things for myself. To be honored, loved and respected by all has always been my greatest ambition and is it wrong to wish to strive for these? Are these great things? Will striving for them be seeking great things for myself? The answer I fear is yes, though I would not have it so…I will not seek great things for myself; I will seek them for God.”


This is the wonder of spending time with the Lord in prayer. He brings the Scriptures alive. He applies them to our lives. Not just for today. But forever.


This work is not easy. You and I are from the world. Our identity – who we are – has been shaped by our family and friends. By our experiences in life. By the values and priorities of our culture. We learn early on what we need to do to get people to love us. Accept and approve us. And make us feel good about us.


Add to that the principle of sin.


We need to be recognized. The desire to be honored. Distinguished. To make a name for ourselves. To be remembered. The first sin of the devil himself was to achieve greatness: “I will raise my throne above the stars of God.” (Isaiah 14:13) Even the disciples found themselves arguing about which of them would be the greatest. (Luke 22:24)


This young man in 1859 realized this sin principle in himself. He was simply in the Scriptures, in prayer, before the Lord when the words of Jeremiah 45:5 pierced his 17 year old heart. He immediately confessed it all to be true. He wanted to be honored, loved, respected – to set out in life to achieve greatness!


He made a commitment that day.


When he wrote in his journal, “I will not seek great things for myself; I will seek them for God” he meant it. It became his life verse -- the words inscribed into his heart by the Holy Spirit of God. It defined him for the rest of his life.


He became a country pastor. He gave himself to serve the marginalized, the needy, poor and lowly. On countless occasions he received invitations for great pulpits, more money, more prestige and honor. He rejected them all because he knew the call of the Lord Jesus Christ on his life.


He stayed in the same church. He gave himself to the poor. He lived his life motto to the fullest. Not a name for himself. To his life’s end he’d say: “I will strive and try not to gain great things for myself but to gain them for God.”


Imagine taking this verse to yourself today.


Imagine letting the Holy Spirit inscribe it into our hearts.


I thank the Lord for the saints who’ve gone before. It deepens my passion for discipleship today. All of us need mentors like this in Jesus today. In every church. For every believer.


So let me ask: Are you seeking great things for you?!?


For Prayer: We are praying for a dear friend and colleague this week: Bob Hackendorf. He’s a priest in Syracuse. His 41 year old sister died suddenly last Saturday leaving a husband and seventeen year old daughter. Please remember the Hackendorfs in your prayers….


Any comments this week!?! Write and I’ll write you back.


Want to know the name of this 17 year old from 1859?!?


Blessings in Jesus our Lord-


Thad

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

SO HOW'S YOUR QUIET TIME GOING?

The blog entry below was fun to write. It ends a series of reflections on what discipleship looks like.

Instead of taking up the next series I’d planned, I thought I’d spend the next couple of weeks with some personal journaling.

So Erilynne and I were in Denver a few weeks ago. At breakfast with Bishop Silas Ng from Canada we learned his passion for this question about our quiet time with the Lord. He was very clear about it: Most Christians don’t do it.

He had statistics. Compelling research.

Without personal time with Jesus, he told us, everything breaks down. Church. Ministry. Mission to the world. Everything.

He was not talking about church-attenders. He was talking Christians. Born again by the Holy Spirit. Confessing Jesus as their Lord. The percentage who read their Bible, pray and make intentional time with the Lord is simply low. Really low when asked: Do you do it daily? A little higher when asked: What about several times a week? What about weekly. Just a little.

This is it! he said, this declares the poverty of the church!

He wasn’t done. He had no interest in people who raise their hand and say: I do my quiet time! He said there is a great danger in legalistic duty. Or doing it out of guilt. Or a form of good works that earns God’s favor and allows us to wrongfully boast to others.

He’s talking right desire: It’s all about a relationship with Jesus!

I was moved by this. So this past Sunday I preached on a text from Luke 5:16: “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” I love this passage because it is clear that our Lord is way-too-busy. The news of Him has gone everywhere. The sick are coming to Him in droves.

And yet He knew boundaries.

He knew when to close the door. To stop His work to others. To leave the 70 and the 12. And then “slip away” to be with His Father.

Because He wanted to. He needed to. After all, He was and is our High Priest. And His first work as High Priest is to minister to the Lord. To be in His presence and fellowship.

The same goes for us who are called a “royal priesthood.”

Hard to argue: “I’m just too busy. I have no time.” Although I know it’s hard. For parents with young kids. For those working long hours, who need quality family time, who need personal time. Where does it fit?!?

I actually found it hard to talk about. I didn’t want people to do it because we’re supposed to do it. Like a husband who knows he really should bring home flowers to his wife because that’s what husbands do. Catch the sermon and tell me what you think: http://www.apostlesct.org/?q=Podcast

So how’s your quiet time?

On a personal note: Erilynne is doing well. She’s teaching this summer at the Bridgeport Rescue Mission under the direction of an amazing woman Nancy DeMaille…We’re praying for a new old English sheepdog. We lost our Barnabas at 12 years old this past March. We’ve had sheepdogs since 1980. Call it a rut?!?... I’m in D.C. Sunday night at Church of the Resurrection for the ordination of Aaron Damiani. A wonderful young man after the heart of God.

So write back if you can.

The Lord Jesus bless your week-


Thad


ON THE PALLET...Part Two

The saying is true and deserving full acceptance: We are discipled in Jesus in community.

·        It’s where we grow up in Christ
·        It’s where we find those older in faith able to “apprentice” us in character and conduct
·        It’s where we discover the specific work He’s called us to do. The Ephesians 2:10 work
·        It’s where we learn the wonder and intimacy of brothers and sisters in Christ
·        It’s where we bring the needy, the lost, the searching

And with it comes a most precious gift. One that surprised me.

Time with the Lord. Personal time. Private time. Relationship time. As a young Christian I was urged by preachers and friends to have morning devotions. To read my Bible. To keep a journal. To take up devotionals, sermons, books that inspire prayer and communion with the Lord.

The daily disciplines of Christian life.

“Did you know,” a friend told me not long ago, “that less than 10% of Christians today have daily devotions with the Lord?” He said he was devoting his research and writing to this one matter because it deeply concerned him. “We are in trouble,” he lamented. “This is a profound sign of un-health in the Church. How can we go on without personal time with Jesus?

Oddly this statistic made sense to me.

That is, if all we do is attend Sunday church – which has always been the discipline of Christians. We gather for worship, preaching, prayer, testimony and communion. Out of our corporate worship comes the intimacy of our Acts 2:42 smaller gatherings. The opening of Christian homes. The place where we are discipled in Jesus in community.

Take that away – and we can actually be lone Christians in Sunday church. We come. We go. We know no one. Yes to greet them. But we stand at a distance. Holding ourselves aloof in Christ.

Doesn’t it make sense? If the Lord has called us to love one another – and we don’t. If we have chosen to be lone Christians in Sunday church – avoiding the intimacy of Christian fellowship. Then it seems self-evident we would stay away from Him too.

Away from that daily time with the Lord, to read the Bible, to pray, to journal, to talk with Him as He talks with us. The surrender of our lives – daily.

The two are always inseparable. If we are healthy in our discipleship in Jesus in community then we will be healthy in our passion for daily fellowship and intimate communion with Him.

And again, I remember the man on the pallet.

The mighty fellowship of the saints! They found him. The four friends grabbed the ends of the pallet and brought him to the house filled with people listening to Jesus. They broke through the roof and lowered him down. That he might have personal time with Jesus.

Just the two of them.

This is it! The inseparable link between our fellowship with Him in the community of the saints and our fellowship with Him in our personal, private, daily relationship with Him. Take away the first – take away the friends -- and the second dries up.

It’s a simple truth. The Bible teaches it over and over again: We are discipled in Jesus in community. Always!

That we might be complete in Jesus.



John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?