Please Pray

Luke 11:1

What is one of the hardest disciplines in the Christian faith? Arguable, I would say prayer. Yet, it is one of the most beneficial disciplines in the Christian faith. If prayer is one of the most beneficial disciplines, then why don’t we pray more often? Maybe the reason why Christians don’t pray as often is because we don’t believe that God is able to answer our prayers. Or perhaps, we have become too self-sufficient that there is no need for God and prayer in our lives. May this post about prayer encourage us to pray more.

Luke 11:1 reads, “It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of his disciples said to Him, ‘Lord teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” The necessity of prayer in the Christian life is clearly in view in this verse. The necessity of prayer can be seen in the disciples’ need to learn how to pray. I think, however, the better view to show the necessity of prayer in the Christian life is the simple phrase, “It happened that while Jesus was praying…” Think for a moment, if the Second person of the Godhead, the God-Man needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray? Jesus prayed for his disciples (John 17), for himself (Luke 22:39-46), and at times the Scripture simply records for us that Jesus prayed.

The life of Jesus is filled with prayers. One cannot escape that fact. It is throughout the gospels. He often prayed all night and at other times arose a great while before dawn to pray to his heavenly Father. I think Jesus is onto something, maybe prayer is expressive of the relationship between a child and the Father. As one author puts is, “For those who know God best are the ones who speak to him most of all.” Christianity is a relationship with God the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit. How many of us express this intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father? Not only is prayer an indication of how intimate a believer’s relationship is with the Father, it is also an expression of faith.

One author puts it best, “Prayer, in many ways, is the supreme expression of our faith in God and our faith and confidence in the promises of God.  There is nothing that a man ever does which so proclaims his faith as when he gets down on his knees and looks to God and talks to God.  It is a tremendous confession of faith.  I mean by this that he is not just running with his requests and petitions, but if he really waits upon God, if he really looks to God, he is there saying, ‘Yes, I believe it all, I believe that you are rewarder of them that diligently seek you, I believe you are the Creator of all things and all things are in your hands.  I know there is nothing outside your control.  I come to you because you are in all this and I find peace and rest and quiet in your holy presence and I am praying to you because you are what you are’.” What type of prayer do we engage in? It is a prayer to get things or is it the type of prayer that will stretch our faith? It is not wrong to pray to receive things. Another author puts it like this, “Prayer is not simply to get things from God, but to make those things holy, which already have been received from Him. It is not merely to get a blessing, but also to be able to give a blessing. Prayer makes common things holy and secular things, sacred. It receives things from God with thanksgiving and hallows them with thankful hearts, and devoted service.” How is your prayer life? Do you even pray? Jesus prayed. His disciples prayed. Do you pray?

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The journey of discipleship (Mark 16:1-8)

The journey of discipleship (Mark 16:1-8)

On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the annual Rose Bowl football game. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California 30 yards away from the Georgia Tech’s end zone. Unfortunately he became confused and began running the wrong way. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, overtook and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team.

This was during the first half. Everyone was wondering what Coach Nibbs Price would do with Roy Riegels in the second half. During half-time Riegels sat alone in a corner, wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, put his hands in his face and cried like a baby.

We’re not football players, but have you experienced failure on your journey of discipleship? If we’re honest, we fail our God more times than we can count on the journey of discipleship. We visited websites that we weren’t suppose to, gossiped about a brother or sister in Christ, yelled at the wife instead of loving her as Christ loves the church, and fall into unspeakable sins.

Is there hope for us when we fail in our journey of discipleship?

In Mark 16:1-8 it tells us that there is hope for those who have failed on their journey of discipleship. In this passage you will hear three points: faithfulness ending in failure, hope offered, and what are we to do in light of hope being offered.

Faithfulness ending in Failure

We have now reached the end of the gospel of Mark. All along we have seen that the gospel of Mark is about the journey of discipleship. The women demonstrated their faithfulness to him on this journey.

The women were faithful to Jesus from Galilee all the way to Jerusalem. They ministered to him while he was in Galilee (15:41); they followed him to the cross and saw the crucifixion (15:40). They saw where Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus (15:47) and rose early in the morning to go there to anoint the body of Christ with species. They saw the empty tomb (16:5-6). They were faithful to follow Jesus, where as the crowd, his family and the religious leaders rejected him. His male disciples fled and denied Him. The women were the last hope that someone within Jesus’s crowd would continue as faithful followers. That was not to be the case, despite their faithfulness they failed to carry the message that was commissioned by the young man to “God and tell, His disciples, and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you.’” Their failure is highlighted through the word ‘fled’ and their silence.

They “fled” in 16:8 because trembling and astonishment had gripped them. Instead of faithfully proclaiming the message, they fled in fear. Mark is trying to paint a picture of the women’s failure through the word “fled”. This word was used in back in 14:50 when the disciples fled and again with the young man (14:52), two examples of the failure through the use of the word “fled”.

They not only fled the scene, they also said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. Their silence jeopardized the second round of discipleship. Faithful to follow Jesus but failed to proclaim the message. Is that us? Faithful to attend seminary but fail to proclaim the message of the good news. Faithful to your husband and wife but fail to proclaim gospel. Faithful to ministry to the saints but fail to proclaim the message of the good news.

Hope Offered

We have seen the failure of the women at the most pivotal point in their journey of discipleship.  Now let’s move to hope offered. The young man commanded the three women, “Go, tell His disciples, and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you.”

Please notice the words, “just as He told you”. Where did Jesus say that He was going to meet them in Galilee after his resurrection?

Jesus told them that he was going to meet them in Galilee after his resurrection back in Mark 14:28. In that context, Jesus spoke of his violent death and prophesied his disciples’ future failure and their future abandonment of him. Jesus knew his disciples would fail, but he offers them hope, that in failure there is always a new beginning. There is always the next round. After the resurrection, the scattered disciples would be regathered in Galilee.

The journey of discipleship started in Galilee. Jesus called his disciples when he was walking along the Sea of Galilee in Mark 1:15. He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of Men.” (Mark 1:17). On way to Jerusalem, one by one the disciples abandoned Jesus.

The disciples fled and left him at his betrayal and arrest. Peter denied Jesus three times. What about us? Have we fled and left him? Have we denied Jesus? When homework and projects are piling up, is Jesus the first to be let go? When work and play time consume us, is Jesus the first to be let go? The prayer life, the quite time, and Bible reading all go to waste side until “the busy moments” in our lives are over and then we will get back on the road with Jesus. Oh, how we in our own ways have fled and left Jesus.

Here in this statement, “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you” hope and restoration are offered to those who have failed, fled, and left Jesus in their journey of discipleship. The resurrected Christ will meet them where it all started. It is the promise of a new start, back to the point of origin, Galilee. It is a new beginning: a new iteration of the trip of discipleship. All can get back “on the way” to follow Jesus.

Don’t miss what the young man said, “But go, tell His disciples and Peter,” Is this not redundant? Is Peter not a disciple of Christ? Why did the young man say “go, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus will go ahead of them to Galilee?”

The disciples fled and abandoned Jesus. Peter denied Jesus three times. In comparison Peter’s failure was worst than the other disciples. It is in this redundancy that we get this principle: Forgiveness and restoration are extended to those who have even experienced the worst of failure.

On this journey of discipleship for us there will be failures. There will be moments where we’ve ruined our God, our faith, and ourselves. In those moments hope and restoration are offered. Just as Jesus extended restoration and hope for the disciples in the phrase, “I will go ahead of you to Galilee” and the young man echoing Jesus’s statement does the same thing, then likewise, when we fail in our journey of discipleship, hope and restoration are offered. Hope and restoration are offered to the murders all the way down to those who tell “white lies.” The promise of a new start is extended to all. Jesus is waiting for you in Galilee, will you meet him there?

Application

We have seen faithfulness leading to failure, hope offered, now let’s move to the application. How do I meet Jesus in Galilee? Let me give you three steps:

  1. The first step is confession of sin. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us of all our unrighteousness. So confess your sin to the Lord.
  2. The second step is once you confessed your sins, realized you have been forgiven. The blood of Christ has washed all your sins away. So often we hang onto the guilt and the pain of our sins. Realized that we have been forgiven and let them go. Don’t let it consume you.
  3. We left Roy Riegels at the corner with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and his hands in his face weeping like a baby, with no hope, during half time.Three minutes before the start of the second half Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.”Riegels never moved. The coach called him and again he never moved. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”Reigels said, “Coach, I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the University of California. I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder and said, “Roy, get up and go on back, the game is only half over.” Roy Reigels went back. Those Tech men will tell you they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.For those who have experienced failure on their journey of discipleship, the resurrected Jesus offers hope and restoration.

    The game is only half over, confess and realize that our sins are forgiven, then get up and go back on the journey of discipleship.

May God bless you,
Dien

Go all in or go home

My last post I talked about discipleship. This post will continue the concept of discipleship in the gospel of Luke. This whole passage is about commitment. It can be seen in three points: Personal comfort (9:57-58), Personal responsibilities (9:59-60), and Personal relationships (9:61-62).

Personal comfort (9:57-58): Notice that in the first instance, the person has a desire to follow Jesus but ends up not following Jesus because he was not willing to give up personal comforts. When Jesus was here on earth, there really was not place for him to stay. Jesus was always on the move, always staying at other people’s place. The implication is if one is willing to follow Jesus, one has to be willing to give up personal comforts. To follow Jesus is to be willing to depend upon God for the daily bread. That was Jesus, is that us? Too often we make excuses in the realm of comfort for not following Jesus. Have you made those excuses?

Personal responsibilities: In order to understand the significance of this section, one has to understand the culture of the time. The culture of the time is religious duties have precedence over everything else. In other words, when Jesus says, “let the dead bury their own dead,” He in essence is giving us this principle: the demand of discipleship is a commitment to Him that transcends the greatest family obligations. The commitment to Jesus is to go and proclaim. Discipleship is a commitment to go and share the gospel to save the lost. Let those who are spiritual dead bury the physical dead. Does your allegiance to Christ transcend all obligations?

Personal relationships: Jesus demands that “old” family relationships must take a backseat if one wants to become a follower. The call to discipleship takes precedence over family relationship. One commentator says the phrase, “looks back,” carries with it the imagery of “gazing back on the things abandoned in to follow Jesus” (American Bible Commentary, 301). In this context Jesus is talking about the family. It is a call to full commitment. Are we all in or are we half in to follow Jesus? What are some of the things that we are looking back at that is causing us to be “half in”?

Summary: Discipleship is costly. It will cost personal comfort, personal responsibilities, and personal relationships. Are you willing to give it all up to follow Jesus? Count the cost before making the decision to follow Jesus. Too often, I think and this is simply my opinion, maybe the reason why so many Christians are not effective in the kingdom of God is because they never really counted the cost of following Jesus. They are half in and half out. They want the benefits of following Christ but are unwilling to give up the things of this world. Where do you and I stand? Are we all in or not?

in His grace,

-dien

Discipleship (Mark 1:17-20)

Mark 1:17-20

The gospel of Mark is a gospel about discipleship. It is through this book that one can learn what it means to be a disciple of Christ. From Mark 1:17-20 there is three elements we can learn from the text about discipleship.

The first element we can learn from the text is discipleship is not a choice. It is not a choice we make to follow Jesus. It is a calling. In other words, Jesus takes the initiative in making disciples. Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John. He didn’t call Zebedee and the hire servants. There is nothing we can do to be a disciple of Christ. God initiate the call.

Jesus says, “follow me,” literal in the Greek is “come after me.” In other words, the object of the call to discipleship is the person of Christ. Once a person accepts the call, the call to discipleship carries with it a demand of full commitment to Him. It is belonging exclusively to Him. Once a person accepts the call to discipleship there is no going back. It carries with it a readiness for the full surrendering of oneself to the Lord. Are you a disciple of Christ, if so are you willing to surrender all to follow Jesus?

The second element we can learn from this passage is discipleship involves a response and a sacrifice. When Jesus gave the call, the response of Simon, Andrew, James, and John was ‘immediately.’ Mark is trying to emphasize the importance of a quick response to Jesus’ call to discipleship. In other words, one must drop everything because entering the kingdom is more important than even life itself. When Jesus calls a person to follow after him the response should be immediately because eternal life supersedes all.

When a call to discipleship is given, people are to response immediately, yet there is an element of sacrifices. Discipleship involves sacrifices. Simon and Andrew left their livelihood. James and John left their business and their family to follow Jesus. To put it another way, Simon and Andrew left their possession (left their nets), and James and John left their possessions (nets and boats) and their family (father). The response to discipleship involves leaving anything that might come between the believer and God. Discipleship means leaving behind a way of life and former ties. The call to discipleship is a call to absolute obedience and surrender.

The third element we can learn from this text is the purpose of discipleship is to be fishers of men. Jesus says, “I will make you become fishers of men.” The idea here is there is an initial call to follow after Jesus and only after a period of preparation will a disciple become fishers of men. In other words, if you’re a disciple of Christ, you will become a fisher of men sometime in the future, after an initial stage of preparation. Christ will work in you, change you, and grow you so that you will perform through the Holy Spirit, the ministry of being “fishers of men.”

There is something amazing about this passage in the Greek language that I want to point out. In the Greek language the infinitive “become” is in the middle voice. The middle voice in Greek is the subject participates in the action of the verb or infinitive so that the result would affect the subject. In this case the subject is Jesus. Jesus participates in the action of making the disciples “fishers of men.” What does all this mean? We have no part in the call to discipleship. Jesus initiates the call to discipleship, but in becoming a fisher of men we play a role. God works with us to form us to be a fisher of men.

The imagery of being a fisher of men is not a lure and a line waiting for a fish to strike. This is alien to the text. The imagery of fishers of men involved says one commentator, “persistence and dedication to the task (often in spite of minimal results), snatching people from judgment, and strenuousness of evangelism.” In other words the purpose of the call is to save people from the coming judgment. It is to evangelize to non-believers in order for them to escape judgment when Christ returns. It will require long hours, dedication to the task, and sometime it is done with little results. Being a fisher of men is not an easy task, but that is the task we are called to. Are we fulfilling that purpose in our lives as disciple of Christ? We say we are disciples of Christ, are we performing the work of a disciple of Christ?

A disciple is a person who is fully committed and willing to surrender all to follow Christ. Once we accept the call, God will prepare us to become fishers of men. Are you a fisher of men?