Discipleship.Network

Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus

The Discipline of a Disciple- part of a book to promote discipleship discussion

The Discipline of a Disciple

Contents

The Discipline of a Disciple. 1

Introduction. 3

Past. 4

Present. 5

Future. 5

Marching Orders. 5

How did Jesus do it?. 6

Private Time with God. 7

Prayer. 7

Staying in love with Jesus. 9

What does discipleship mean to you?. 10

Blind Spots. 11

Where do you hang your "Do Not Disturb" sign?. 11

First Things First. 14

Fighting personal battles. 14

Plan to head off lust, greed, coveteousness. 16

Interventions. 18

Attitudes. 18

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. 19

Ambassadorship. 20

Role Plays. 21

Empathetic Listening. 22

What are some good questions as intimated above?. 22

Really Helping vs. Enabling. 23

How to effectively help others? Not too much nor too little. 23

What are some things to focus on when helping others?. 24

How to build a bridge?. 24

What are some practical lessons for effective helping from the “Compassionate Samaritan?”. 24

What are some practical lessons for effective helping from Matthew 25?. 25

What are some practical lessons for effective helping from Isaiah 58?. 26

Helping the Helpless. 26

Discipleship and Disciple-making Hindrances. 27

Community Outreach. 28

Summary of some disciplines of discipleship. 29

Establishing. 29

Discipling. 29

Exhorting. 30

Teaching. 30

Training. 30

Admonishing. 30

Counseling. 31

Encouraging. 31

Mentoring. 31

Transformational Mentoring. 31

Modeling. 32

Influencing. 32

Equipping. 32

Equipping+. 33

Equipping++. 33

Equipping+++. 33

Equipping++++. 34

Equipping+++++. 34

Equipping++++++. 34

Leaders Require 3 things. 34

Character Development. 35

Scriptural Examples. 35

Character. 35

9 Fruit of the Spirit; Galatians 5:22-23. 36

Making Disciples. 36

What does Jesus say is the cost of discipleship?. 43

Matthew 16:23-25. 43

Performance Power. 43

Test Time (Honor System). 43

What’s Next?. 44

References. 45

Introduction

Those who truly come to Jesus by faith and ask Him to be their savior from sin and their Master thereby become His disciples, much like the original 12.  Of course there are many differences such as: Jesus is now in heaven as our High Priest intercessor to God the Father (although He also resides in us and promises to never leave us nor forsake us); as we live our daily lives our fellowship with Him is spiritual rather than physical; we learn mainly from His written word and prayer, as contrasted with seeing His examples lived before our eyes, and listening to his verbal answers to our questions. 

Our decision to follow Jesus and become His disciple can be just as costly as it was for His original 12.  In Matthew 16  24Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.   25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. But the benefits are “out of this world” and they continue to cumulate in this life and through eternity.  Jesus still trains His disciples by demonstrating how to live, followed by our practice of what we learn.  But our understanding of His earthly demonstration is mainly through reading His word and prayer.  The proof of the pudding still comes as we put our training into practice.  This practice includes both becoming more like Christ (discipleship) and becoming a disciple-maker.  Such successive training of faithful people down through the ages is what Jesus has depended on to continue to populate heaven with faithful disciples.  This book is written to lay down some tracks for disciples and disciple-makers to run on in your church and community, and equally important to promote discussion of creative ideas on how best to fulfill and experience both roles. 

To get the most out of this course I recommend you keep a journal and spend time at home after each section to record how you either have or intend to apply it.  Occasional review of this journal will help you check out your spiritual growth on a continuing basis.  As you move along through this book you can also occasionally move through the 7 evaluation questions at the end of the book under the Test Time section to become more aware of your progress.

Discussion:For example, stop for a moment, recall and discuss a couple of the main people God has already placed in your lives as your mentors, disciplers, and encouragers to continue with Christ and to become more like Him.  This book will help you to grow into these and other roles as you study and share together.  It will also help you assess where you are in this process and evaluate how you are doing.  Note that these roles are ongoing, continual, and open-ended, so don’t expect to retire after this course.  It merely prepares you for the next level.  Please also discuss how these course objectives match up with your expectations and personal needs.

Past

When you look back to trace your spiritual beginnings, what “root of the righteous” helper do you recall?  Most likely you can find many mentors, encouragers, seed-planters, but maybe only one spiritual father like Paul was to Timothy.  In such case your spiritual father maybe different than your earthly father.  Many of you will be able to connect the dots to see God working in your life to bring you to cry out to Him and experience life-changing new spiritual birth, followed by growing and learning and doing God’s will.  As Henry Blackaby says, we often see more of God’s plans for us as we connect the dots of the past spiritual experiences He has brought into our lives.

If you have not experienced a personal accepting of Jesus’ payment for your sin by placing your faith in His substitutionary death for your sins on the cross, today is the day to nail that down. As Jesus told the religious leader Nicodemus who came secretly at night to “get what He had,” you MUST be born spiritually to be able to enter heaven.  Read more details of this encounter in John chapter 3.  Use this to make certain that you KNOW you have God’s Son and His gift of eternal life.  1 John 5:12-13: 12He who possesses the Son has that life; he who does not possess the Son of God does not have that life.   13I write this to you who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) the name of the Son of God [in the peculiar services and blessings conferred by Him on men], so that you may know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have life, yes, eternal life.

Present

But entering into eternal life in union with Jesus is just the beginning.  We are wise to both spend time alone with God in prayer and letting Him share His love letters with us, AND to spend time together with serious fellow believers for mutual growth as “iron sharpens iron.”

If instead we withdraw from others like a “lone ranger” we are much easier for Satan to pick off or neutralize.  A small group fellowship or Sunday School class is intended to promote sharing, growth, and enlarged spiritual perspectives.  For example James’ practicality in this dimension is shown in James 5:16, 16Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].  By sharing together you will learn ways to move forward spiritually.

Future

With this background, another way to grow spiritually is in a discussion group or an accountability group.  My experience with men is that it is very hard for us macho males to actually verbalize short phrases like: “I’m sorry; I was wrong; I have done wrong; I know I hurt you and I’m asking if you can forgive me; I have sinned.”  Admitting wrong is not generally taught nor caught.  Actually the whole human race is much more experienced at making excuses, shifting blame to others, and defending and denying any wrong-doing on our part.  That’s one reason that a discussion or discipleship group can pay big dividends in helping us practice and benefit from James 5:16.  At least for me confession to God of my sins in the light of His holiness, humbling myself (coming down off an artificial pedestal) before my peers, and compassionately praying for them, are all areas I desperately need help in.  How about you?  So this book is written to capture some spiritual food for thought and discussion to help us all in our common journey to grow more like our Master as we intentionally open our lives to each other and to Him daily.  Many of the ideas and scriptures herein come directly from the pen and powerpoint slides of Mr. Kent Humphries who is so creative in encouraging us in how to share our faith and make disciples.  See Reference [1].  A commonly understood secret to problem solving and behavior improvement is to begin by humbly admitting the problem and our need for help.  Getting “the beam out of our eye” greatly improves our eyesight and effectiveness in making forward progress!

Marching Orders

As we know, Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies about His ministry with His 12 disciples, as well as investing daily patient time in answering their worldly perspectives with love, truth, and answers from His eternal perspective.  For the most part they did not get it at the time.  For example He interrupted their argument about which one was greatest to introduce a foreign thought about servanthood.  But after Pentecost, union in prayer, and personal empowerment and enlightenment by the Holy Spirit, He fulfilled His promise of their memory recall, and they caught on and caught fire for His Kingdom. 

But what were their bedrock marching orders and the root of their assignments?  John 1:16-17 makes a sharp contrast between Jesus and Moses.  16 For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift. 17 For while the Law was given through Moses, grace (unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing) and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus summarized the entire law of Moses in Matthew 22: "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"j  37 He said to him, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (X) (Y) 38 This is the greatest and most important commandment. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Z) 40 All the Law and the Prophets dependl on these two commandments."

And just before Jesus ascended back to heaven, what was His great commission assignment to His disciples?  Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

And finally, what is Jesus’ and Paul’s approach to training 12 men for 3 years and entrusting worldwide evangelism and ambassadorship to them, sink or swim?  2Timothy 2:2 2And the [instructions] which you have heard from me along with many witnesses, transmit and entrust [as a deposit] to reliable and faithful men who will be competent and qualified to teach others also.

So with the above spiritual foundation and assignment summary, let’s get on with some discussion about how we can pick up our spiritual batons, become more like Christ, sharpen some iron, and find and fulfill God’s plans and assignments for our lives.

How did Jesus do it?

It’s always good to learn from Jesus for several reasons.  He pleased God the Father so completely that God the Father affirmed Him several times, like Matthew 17:5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”  Jesus also provides us a sinless pattern to follow in His steps.  He said that John 12:47 "If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn't take it seriously, I don't reject him. I didn't come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I'm saying, is willfully choosing rejection. The Word, the Word-made-flesh that I have spoken and that I am, that Word and no other is the last word. I'm not making any of this up on my own. The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it. And I know exactly what his command produces: real and eternal life. That's all I have to say. What the Father told me, I tell you."  Jesus modeled obedience to the Father and disciple-making, along with the eventual benefits of persistence.

So here are 5 things Jesus did with His disciples looking on.  He spent some time with crowds and equipping His disciples to reach many, but His main work was discipling the 12 and the 3 – every day, without fail.  The secret to successful discipling is spending time together, modeling, living spiritual experiences together; i.e. learning by doing together, like Jesus & the 3!

  1. Told Everyone the Good News (Gospel)
  1. Taught Many (5,000 and the 4,000)
  1. Trained Some (Seventy sent out 2 x 2)
  2. Equipped a Few (the 3 and the 12)
  3. Modeled a Relationship with the Father

Another way to contrast this is to say that as great as Jesus’ mountain-top teaching was (e.g. His ‘Sermon on the Mount’) when the disciples had to live on their own when Jesus was gone, they mainly remembered their 1:1 time with Him.  For more on this profound comparison, refer to Reference [2].

Discussion: In your opinion, which is generally more effective in lasting kingdom work, a great preacher or evangelist, or someone who spends 1:1 time discipling others?  Why?

Private Time with God

You can’t give away (or sell) what you don’t have.  To elaborate on what we said in the section title Past, you have to reach out and take Jesus and His payment for your sin, by faith, or it really is not in your spiritual bank account for you to spend.  My daughter used to go with me to downtown Dallas Union Gospel Mission.  She would ask to stop, go in and buy a candy bar.  At the mission she would approach street men on the front row, extend the candy bar to each one in turn and ask them to take it.  Some were not sure they should, but finally one would take it.  “It’s yours to enjoy” she would respond.  “You must reach out by faith and take Christ personally as your savior before you can KNOW you have eternal life based on His payment for all on the cross.”  Similarly you must spend daily private time with God and His Word to let Him disclose His love letters to you, and to spend intimate time with “your daddy.”  Reference [3] outlines many ways to do this, since people are different.  I prefer praying; reading a few verses, writing in a notebook a paraphrase of them in my own words, praying, and then writing a personal application for those verses (often a prayer).  I must do this first when I get up, or most often something will interrupt and distract me. 

Discussion: How has your Quiet Time worked or not worked for you? 

Prayer

Private prayer is essential as mentioned in our Quiet Time above.  Actually as we grow we learn to pray without ceasing throughout our day, both listening and speaking in our communication with God.  He hears the prayer of our heart, independent of moving lips.  As we sharpen our conscience through experiencing the 9 fruit of the Spirit, learning obedience and sensitivity to the Spirit, and confession of sin, our communication with God improves.  Prayer is the root of all successful spiritual work, including discipleship.

Reference [4 ] is an excellent book on prayer to help us grow in the 6 aspects of prayer below that are taken from that book.

Prayer Aspect

Nature of the Prayer

God’s Aspect

Benefits

Confession

Responding to …

God’s Holiness

Restores our fellowship & enables other areas of prayer effectiveness

Worship

Responding to …

God’s Glory

Gives God His due and helps us stand in awe of Him

Praise

Responding to …

God’s Attributes

Ignites our joy and strength

Thanksgiving

Responding to …

God’s Riches

Keeps us from taking God for granted

Petition

Asking that is led by …

My Heavenly Father

Humbles me and keeps me honestly in touch with my needs

Intercession

Asking that is led by …

My Master

Prepares me to serve and help others & takes my focus off myself

Another excellent prayer motivator is the DVD and study booklet [5] from Brooklyn Tabernacle that graphically shows personal transformations and church growth through prayer.  And yet another prayer motivator is the slides [6] I present to churches and groups to help individuals grow, mature, and enjoy God’s special prayer provisions for us.

Discussion: Spend a few minutes comparing the two columns in the House of Prayer table below [8].  Circle on each row the number in the left or right column that seems most like your church.  Use this information to place a 1/2/3 in the left of the 3 rows where it appears your church could improve most.

"My House shall be called a House of Prayer " Matthew 21:13

PRAYER MINISTRY

HOUSE OF PRAYER

 

 

  1. Limited number of people involved.
  2. Entire congregation involved.
  3. Prayer is done by a select few and the responsibility is always put on them to pray.
  4. Entire congregation takes ownership for doing their “prayer share.” 
  5. Little or no regular emphasis from the pulpit.
  6. Teaching from the pulpit and priority is placed on prayer by the pastor.
  7. Very little training offered in prayer.
  8. Classes and special opportunities on a regular basis offered on prayer.
  9. Vision for church growth in prayer is limited.  Contented with only a few praying.
  10. Concept of “prayer band” has grown to larger vision of “prayer army.”
  11. Only a few leaders attend prayer meetings with no regular commitment.  A few carry the burden to pray.
  12. All leaders, staff and lay persons have a burden for prayer.
  13. Church groups open meetings with prayer as a main agenda item.
  14. Groups spend time praying together and set times of prayer in addition to regular meetings.
  15. Something lacking in church atmosphere because prayer is feeble.
  16. There is a fresh flowing atmosphere of the Holy Spirit due to whole church praying.
  17. Prayer opportunities limited for members to have the freedom to pray.
  18. There is a natural flow of prayer going on throughout the church.
  19. Prayer ministry staff is not recognized as viable part of church staff.
  20. Paid/or volunteer prayer minister and staff in place.

 

Staying in love with Jesus

Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ) wrote a book [8] on staying in love with Jesus.  If you think your initial love has lessened, please consider reading this and letting it rekindle the flame.  For me there are 3 main elements to keep the flame burning bright: (1) Daily Quiet Time, (2) Daily learning to pray without ceasing, and (3) daily reporting for duty with a “get to” attitude to receive assignments and God working in and through me to show me His will and empower me to do it!

Recently I traveled to visit an 86 year old lady that had fallen and cracked her hip a second time.  I took lunch for her and her grown son.  Not long after we started talking and reminiscing she asked out the blue, “how is your love life?”  I immediately replied that I find I am more in love with Jesus every day.  My wife died a year and a half ago, but God has kept me busy as His way of helping fill that void.  Obviously time spent together daily, and good and honest communication are key ingredients to fan the flame of His love initiative and our passionate response.

Here are a couple of ideas to fan the flame of your love for Jesus.  Praying according to the dimensions listed above like worship, praise, thanksgiving, and intercession can rekindle our joy in the Lord that can quickly progress to increased love for Him.  Also our obedience to Him in serving others can similarly blaze a path of increased love for Him.  Personal revival can be simply defined as our experience of an increased love for Jesus.

Discussion: As honestly as possible, please discuss or pray privately about the progression of your love life with Jesus.

What does discipleship mean to you?

As we continue to sharpen our focus on discipleship we need to personally focus on what that means to each one of us.  We know that Jesus prayed and invited 12 disciples to “come follow me and I will turn you into fishers of men.”  Amazingly to me these unlearned men immediately (without excuses or equivocation) left the fishing nets, lucrative tax collecting, homes and comfort zones to “follow the Master” and learn from Him as His disciple.  They spent time (24x7x3 years) with Him.  His leadership style was to show and tell, but much differently than most of us would do. 

He showed (demonstrated) things like prayer with such recognizable results, that after awhile, they asked Him, “teach us to pray.”  He then succinctly verbalized a model prayer as a template example to guide their prayers.  In contrast to the way Jesus did it, most of us would likely have called a meeting to discuss prayer or have started a class or lecture series on prayer.

He told them truth mostly as it came up during their travels and discussions.  Often such teaching came when He needed to correct their thinking, speaking, or action, i.e. offering opportunity for them to make personal changes to get back on track.  He was willing to patiently repeat such teaching and give examples and stories (simple parables taken from everyday life) that you could only miss if you were set in your own ways (and motives) in opposition to God.

Many of us would agree that a disciple follows his mentor or master to learn from him in order to become more like him, including becoming more able to achieve results similar to his teacher.  Jesus’ disciples at first had major difficulty understanding His goals and objectives since they often got hung up on their own earthly purposes that obscured what He was teaching about spiritual things.  Especially in the Gospel of John, Jesus promises that disciple and disciple-making fruit comes as a result of disciples “abiding in Him and His love” and He and His word “abiding in us.”  This is similar to the Hebrews 4 instructions about resting (ceasing from our own works), believing or trusting in Jesus and His word, and lastly partnering wholeheartedly, enthusiastically, and energetically with Him as we “strive to enter into His rest” of seeing and doing His will.

So at this point let’s stop and discuss: how we became interested in being a disciple of Jesus; have we received any “calling” to follow Him; what intensity do we feel about this (e.g. where does discipleship fit in our list of personal priorities); and what are one or two main objectives we are focused on in our discipleship?

Discussion: This is your opportunity to discuss the above questions and to firm up what you want to achieve through discipleship, as well as what you think God has in mind for you.  For you to have participated so far in this discussion you must have some ideas about discipleship purposes.  For example who has so far helped you most to become more like Jesus?  Is that a major goal of yours?  This can give you clues about who to look to as you future mentor.  This is also a major chance to ask questions to sharpen your goals and focus as a disciple of Christ, and to discuss current or future fruit by which you can measure progress with the help of others.

Blind Spots

Where and how did you receive your best insight into God and His impact on your life?  I’ll bet that His written word was involved in such encounters.  James 1:22-24 tells us to act quickly on insight which God and His word provides.  22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror; 24 for he looks at himself, goes away, and right away forgets what kind of man he was. 

Several things can contribute to such failure to obey God.  One case is where Satan or worldly distractions crowd out the instruction and insight we saw in the mirror of God’s word.  Others include procrastination or anything that short circuits putting into practice and action what God revealed to us.  And finally our Blind Spots may even block us seeing and hearing clearly from God. 

Where do you hang your "Do Not Disturb" sign?

Where do you hang your "Do Not Disturb" sign?  Such signs typically apply to a trip where we have a day to sleep in longer than usual.  But, truth be known, at home, many of us likely place some conditions and limits (like "Do Not Disturb" signs") on what we allow to interfere with our plans and agendas.  There can be many reasons for this, like being so busy we don't have any slack in our schedule, feeling we need to stay in control of things, or just not wanting to be bothered or put out by the needs of others.

In the good old days many people traveled by hitch hiking.  But today that is not considered safe or smart.  But in spite of that, have you ever stopped and given someone a ride?  Or have you ever set aside your own agenda to focus on someone who needed help?  Actually, what is it that is so important that it can't wait until we reach out to someone who needs a helping hand?  This question of course illumines the issue of first seeing the needs of others.  Sometime back I was totally unaware that my neighbor's husband had died, and that she was living without any hot water.  The Lord finally /got me past hanging up on the black plastic bags all over her porch and yard, and just general mess than flowed over into our road, to realizing the person inside the trailer should be my main focus.  Once I did that I discovered her needs and found a couple of talented folks to fix her circuit breaker and hot water heater.  Self-centeredness, selfishness, and blind spots are more common than we think.  We can blame this on a lot of excuses, but we actually perpetuate these deadly characteristics ourselves.  Obviously if we are serious about answering Jesus’ call to be a disciple and to make disciples this means we must commit to let Him shine light in our blind spots so that we can spot our "Do Not Disturb" signs and take them down and get rid of them.

So where do you hang your "Do Not Disturb" signs?  I realize you don't deliberately make or hang such signs, since this issue of "unneighborliness" is subtle, under cover, and typically resides in our blind spots or off in the corner of denial.  One of many things we can learn from Jesus' teaching about our neighbor is that the higher one is positioned in society, prestige, and prominence, the more likely we will succumb to "passing by on the other side," rather than seeing, stopping, and getting our hands dirty with the needs of others.  It’s a lot easier to grab a ready-made excuse off the shelf than to interrupt our schedule and get personally involved with helping others.

To shine some light on how important it is to get out of our own comfort zone, what if we became disabled, dependent upon someone else, or found ourselves crying out for help?  If the shoe were on the other foot, would we hope for, expect, or demand help from others?  How could we appear important enough to a "passerby" to get them to stop and render aid?  It is at this point that we might be able to understand the importance of taking the initiative to meet someone's needs.  There are many times that people are too far down, too weak, or too discouraged to be their own advocate.  They need someone else to go to bat for them and show initiative in their behalf.  They would especially like to feel that someone else thought they were worth helping, without having to ask or beg them.

Jesus warns us about hating others, which He says is the same as killing them.  He sees our heart and motives when we judge others as not worthy of our help or inconvenience.  His view is exactly opposite to our excuses, denials, and cover-ups.  Part of our reluctance to get involved to help someone else could stem from our unwillingness to address our own issues, and admit our own need for help.  For example, Jesus wound up his encounter with the man who was born blind by stating that "if we could admit we were blind He would heal us," but those who claim they see still remain in their sin and self-centered blindness.  The very best disciplers and helpers are those who have first sought and found the help of Jesus with their deepest needs.

Its time to get back to the way we hang our "Do Not Disturb" signs and rarely even consider getting out of our comfort zones to help someone else.  Why should we risk harm to ourselves when we could remain safe, secure, and comfortable at home by the fireplace?  But let's look for a moment at the One who did leave it all for us.  While mankind was oppositional, complaining, and anti-God, Jesus knew we needed Him so badly that He took total initiative in our behalf to leave the comforts of heaven and subject Himself to the worst that Satan and mankind could dish out.  “He came to His own and His own received Him not.”  Ultimately He experienced God the Father giving no aid in response to His cries of agony so we would never have to experience abandonment by God ourselves.  Jesus was daily interrupted and sought after for special help and healing.   Compassionate, loving help that is so responsive will always become widely known and attract even more folks who are willing to try one more time to get their needs met.  How long since you have been to Jesus for help?  Well that's too long!  Never tried him?  Then I am willing to bet you have some undiscovered pride or independent spirit that is keeping you from becoming all He intended you to be.  Yes, if you take your sign down, He will disturb you.  And you will never be sorry throughout all eternity.  Please don’t proceed with discipleship until you have taken down your "Do Not Disturb" sign.

Jesus will now honor your desire to see people and their needs through His eyes.  He will later give you insight to identify those that truly want your help to learn how to become a disciple and a disciple-maker.  Many technical disciplines today use digital filters, Fast Fourier Transforms, software and hardware to find and display “signals of interest” out of a broadband spectrum that basically looks like random noise.  Examples include submarine sonar as they explore their underwater suroundings, and satellites as they listen to intercept messages and intelligence, whether originating from the earth or from extraterrestrial sources.  None of the later have been found to date.  If the later were ever found many people would get excited, and the media would broadcast it all over our planet.  But once God opens your vision in the mirror of His word to see your potential to partner with Him as a disciple-maker, you will become even more excited that a discoverer of ET.

Discussion: Please study the following  Johari Window [9] which points out how we all can use "outside information" for  a better understanding of ourselves and for subsequent growth, to identify two of your blind spots.  One should be at the intersection of “unknown to self” and “known to others.”  One should be at the intersection of “unknown to self” and “unknown to others.”  Please share these briefly and discuss how similar or dissimilar they are among the entire group.

 

                                                                                                 JOHARI WINDOW


First Things First

Habit #3 in Steven Covey’s [10] “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” under the Private Victory category is to Put First Things First.  My oldest son just came in from a break in the TV news to say that God has been impressing him to develop some grooves (structure) to help him make forward progress and especially to get back on target when distractions knock him off course.  Putting First Things First starts with finding out what is most important to you, and aligning your planning and schedules to match up with those importances, thus avoiding getting pulled aside by the “tyranny of the urgent.”  Otherwise most folks experience a loss of efficiency as the urgent tends to crowd out the important.  Ideally you have committed to find out what God says is most important and to align your importances with His.  That is why we have already covered topics like Marching Orders, How did Jesus do it?, and  Private Time with God.  I hope that helped.  If not, please review those sections briefly to help you “get in the groove” to put first things first.

Building relationships is the powerful key to making disciples as well as to becoming more Christ like as a disciple.  This requires open-ended commitment to our relationships so we don’t give up on our disciples.  Jesus’ secret to doing that was to look past their current deficiencies and problems to what they could and would become in their relationship with Him.  As we experience victory in fighting our personal battles (presented next) we have more to share with our disciples.

Discussion: Please use this brief section and prior topics like Marching Orders, How did Jesus do it?, and  Private Time with God as a guide to discuss what your own priorities or grooves are.  Discuss a few of your experiences of being sidetracked by seemingly urgent things like phone calls, e-mail, and watching TV away from important things like quiet time, praying, planning, scheduling, witnessing and sharing, follow up on prayers and contacts, and spending time with disciples and family.  Also discuss how you do or how you could use these to help keep you on target as a disciple of Christ to avoid becoming sidetracked and having your time highjacked from the important things by the urgent things that tend to “pop up” each day.  Also discuss whether you need to make some adjustments to your grooves, importances, or “first things” based on your review of the 3 topics above and this discussion.

Fighting personal battles

Each of us have issues and “besetting sins” that tend to drag us down as we run to finish the race strong like Paul did.  God knows us better than we know ourselves.  He has not only made many promises and provisions to help us run our race, but He ran it successfully (without sin) to model victory for us, and to become equipped to understand first-hand the tests and struggles we face, and to represent us as our perfect High Priest to God the Father.  When we veer off course of praying according to God’s will we also have the Holy Spirit to correct and perfect our prayers.  Romans 8:26-27   26So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance. 27And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God's will.

When we feel at the end of our rope with struggles He provides the following promise.  1 Corinthians 10:13  13For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.

Sometimes we seem bound to repeat failure under testing like Paul admitted in Romans 7.  11For sin, seizing the opportunity and getting a hold on me [by taking its incentive] from the commandment, beguiled and entrapped and cheated me, and using it [as a weapon], killed me.

    14We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am a creature of the flesh [carnal, unspiritual], having been sold into slavery under [the control of] sin. 15For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [which my moral instinct condemns].   17However, it is no longer I who do the deed, but the sin [principle] which is at home in me and has possession of me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot perform it. [I have the intention and urge to do what is right, but no power to carry it out.]  19For I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds that I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing.

But Paul made progress beyond this struggle as he detailed in Romans 8:1-4, summarized in the first verse.   1THEREFORE, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the Law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh the entire nature of man without the Holy Spirit]. Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice], 4So that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us who live and move not in the ways of the flesh but in the ways of the Spirit [our lives governed not by the standards and according to the dictates of the flesh, but controlled by the Holy Spirit].

One struggle common to many men is lust and sexual temptation.  Reference [11] is a 2 day discussion and video class that deals with these issues and answers.  Pornography is often tied into this mix.  Depending on the pertinence to your group, it may likely be wise to devote time to study and discuss through this entire material.  Meanwhile the Spiritual Action Plan (WRAP) to combat lust, greed, and covetousness is presented as armament to avoid such sins. 

Plan to head off lust, greed, coveteousness

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Topic

Commentary

Prohibition

Positive Focus

1

Lust

Jude 1:17 The Message
But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: "In the last days there will be people who don't take these things seriously anymore. They'll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts." These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There's nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!

 

1 John 2:15-17  15Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.

    16For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one's own resources or in the stability of earthly things]--these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself].

    17And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever.

God's Rich Blessings

Eph 1: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,  in Christ; 4 for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love  5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.

2

Greed

  • Jude 1:9 The Archangel Michael, who went to the mat with the Devil as they fought over the body of Moses, wouldn't have dared level him with a blasphemous curse, but said simply, "No you don't. God will take care of you!" But these people sneer at anything they can't understand, and by doing whatever they feel like doing—living by animal instinct only—they participate in their own destruction. I'm fed up with them! They've gone down Cain's road; they've been sucked into Balaam's error by greed; they're canceled out in Korah's rebellion.

Romans 1:29 Until they were filled (permeated and saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, iniquity, grasping and covetous greed, and malice. [They were] full of envy and jealousy, murder, strife, deceit and treachery, ill will and cruel ways. [They were] secret backbiters and gossipers,

 

1 Timothy 6:6
But godliness with contentment is great gain.

 

3

Coveting

  • 2 Peter 2:14 They have eyes full of harlotry, insatiable for sin. They beguile and bait and lure away unstable souls. Their hearts are trained in covetousness (lust, greed), [they are] children of a curse [ exposed to cursing]!

2nd Peter 2:3  And in their covetousness (lust, greed) they will exploit you with false (cunning) arguments. From of old the sentence [of condemnation] for them has not been idle; their destruction (eternal misery) has not been asleep.

 

2 Peter 1:4 By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature.

 

A similar spiritual battle issue is adultery via lingering lustful looks.  Here are some thoughts on defeating this dragon.
1-You want to avoid mimicking Satan at all costs, like his stealing, cheating, destroying your marriage and home, and his giving you a trojan horse that costs way more than you can afford to pay.  Satan is a deceiver to make stuff look good that truly bites with the sting and deadliness of an adder.

 

2- Flee - run away from - youthful lusts;

3- Whatsoever things are pure and peaceable and from above, think on these things; i.e. replace bad thoughts with good thoughts.

 

4- Don't rob in thought, word or deed from another man.

Discussion: At this time, please discuss the temptations, sin issues, and battles outlined above.  Express how well the answers and scriptures listed above work for you, adding what works and what does not work for you in these areas.  Also discuss whether to study the reference material as a group later on.

Interventions

An intervention is a planned meeting intended to help someone decide they need help in breaking the power an addiction or strong hold and to take initial steps to get special help.  An example of this follows.  Recently a family allowed me to join them in an intervention to help a father/brother to break his addiction to crack cocaine.  We met, prayed, discussed, and role played in preparation for the intervention meeting later that night. 

Children and a girl friend of one each pleaded to get back the Dad they remembered before his addiction.  They read symptoms that generally result from this addiction (very similar to mental illness symptoms).  Their spirit was humble as they got “down under” their Dad, not “down on him.”  I believe it was mainly their tears of grief at their loss that mainly got through to him and humbled him.  They pledged their love for him would remain, but also promised to NOT support him or stick around if he refused to get help.  He agreed to attend daily AA/NA meetings and to enroll the next week in a metroplex rehabilitation class dealing specifically with victory over crack cocaine.

Christians in Recovery (CIR) meets once a week in our area.  It provides an opportunity for addicts to share their experiences of recovery and to comment on a different Bible passage each meeting and its application to their lives.  Emphasis is placed on focusing on recovery and empowerment from Jesus Christ, one day at a time.  The variety of recovery and maturity encourages participants at various stages of recovery to persevere and not give up.

Discussion: Discuss the above forms of recovery as you have or would like to experience them.  If you know of other similar approaches to recovery, please share them.

Attitudes

“An attitude of gratitude elevates our altitude of recovery.”  Some say that attitude is everything.  Some things are not under our control, but attitude is under our control.  A man in his 90’s asked, “How are you doing Sam?”  “OK under the circumstance” was his reply.  Immediately the elderly man asked, “What are you doing under there?”  When you feel trapped “under” your circumstances its time to take your eyes and focus off of your circumstance and “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.”  He has the answers, and He IS the answer.  Otherwise your attitude will plummet into discouragement, despair, doubt, and maybe even depression.

Some terse but powerful Bible commands that should affect our daily attitude are:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

 16Rejoice evermore.

 17Pray without ceasing.

 18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Do we have trouble practicing these 3 each day?  If so, why?  There is a big difference between believing and trusting something.  The demons believe in Jesus and tremble.  But they do NOT obey Him.  When we truly trust Him we also love and obey Him.  With that attitude the above 3 commands are empowered by our love for Him and our desire to please Him.  Psalm 37:3-4 (King James Version)

 3Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

 4Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

One little letter makes all the difference in our daily attitude toward duty or opportunity to please God, “Get to” or “Got to.”  When we get to do something it is a privilege that produces an attitude of gratitude and a heart of thanksgiving.  Mark Twain captured this difference beautifully in Tom Sawyer’s white washed fence account, as follows.

You may recall that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) did a masterful job of describing how Tom Sawyer transformed his Saturday morning "prison time" (when Aunt Polly assigned him to whitewash her fence) into a "cash cow."  He grudgingly "allowed" all the neighborhood boys the privilege of' 'whitewashing a little' in exchange for whatever prize possessions they had with them that day.  In the end, Polly had a whitewashed fence and Tom had all his friend's treasures, without even lifting a finger.

Mark Twain explained his astute observation of human nature by defining WORK as anything you HAVE to do; whereas PLAY is anything you strongly desire (and GET) to do.  In other words, Tom turned his work into play for others!  Of course such "play time" costs. 

Another test you can run each day is to check out whether you are experiencing Jesus’ promise that “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  If so you have progressed to a “get to” stage with Him.

Discussion: Discuss what difference you experience when you focus on circumstances vs. turning your eyes upon Jesus.  How does 1 Thessalonians 5:17 work for you?  How often do you LET it work?  Have you discovered the difference between “Get to” and “Got to.”  Discuss Mark Twain’s comparison of work and play.

 

 

 

Ambassadorship

God is very vulnerable in His relationships with us.  This includes ambassadorship and prayer (a later topic).  I once knew a Campus Crusade family stationed in Bonn, Germany.  They actually met and interfaced with many ambassadors (representatives to Germany from their respective country).  Many decades ago he spoke on being God’s ambassador from 2 Corinthians 5, leaving a lifelong impression on me.  God is very vulnerable to risk His reputation by how truthfully and accurately I represent Him in His assignment to me of Ministry of Reconciliation  and Message of Reconciliation (I urge you as Christ’s representative/ambassador, please be reconciled to God through the blood payment of His Son for all your sins).  God give each of us “divine appointment” opportunities each day to share this reconciliation plea.  Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, once told me he considers it a “divine appointment” for sharing Christ if he is together with someone for over 3 minutes. 

What are some characteristics of an ambassador? Creative, innovative, author of a grand world peace plan, charismatic, OR dependable to faithfully deliver messages from His government, willing to put the messages from his country above his own agenda, feelings, and solutions?  I believe that a creative, innovative, charismatic ambassador who might substitute his own message for that of his government would very likely be fired and replaced with someone who could be trusted to pass on messages from home.

For another view, suppose you were the one on the receiving end of messages from a foreign ambassador in your country.  Would you expect to hear the inventions of an innovative ambassador, or would you prefer getting a message with the authority of the president and government of their country?  A large number of cavalier, innovative ambassadors could quickly turn world government communications into a "tower of Babel" chaos.  True, that you can't always trust "the party line" from another country expressed through their ambassador.  But when good ambassadors operate, they are not the problem; the main issue then is whether the government of their country can be trusted.

So how suited are you to be an ambassador?  Can you represent someone else and their consensus or do you feel you must "set things straight" yourself and over-ride some of their "decisions that need to be "more balanced?" 

God has given a clear and simple message through His ambassador-messengers.  I'll bet many of you have been the bearers of news and have pleaded with others "NOT to shoot the messenger!"  But true ambassadors deliver the message even when it draws fire from others.  It can even draw "friendly fire."  Aren't the wounds of a friend painful?

Jesus was God's most simple, clear, and direct communication to mankind.  For example He didn't try to communicate from heaven, but rather came from there to show us directly how to welcome Him and His transforming message and light.  He IS God the Father's Ambassador and He IS the message and the light.  Those who received Him through the ages were made His ambassadors with the same message of reconciliation that they experienced through Jesus.  If you had experienced a cure for your cancer, many of you wouldn't waste much time sharing it with others.  But sharing the love, grace and forgiveness we've experienced from Jesus is abundantly more valuable than a cancer cure, just as eternity is more important than our comparatively brief life here on earth.

Actually each one of us is an ambassador with a message.  Some have looked at life and invented their own message.  Others have admitted they don't have a message of their own that satisfies and have invited THE message from God into their own life, whereupon they have discovered that Jesus is a never-ending love letter from God the Father.  Please don't dismiss those who tell you of their experience just because you have never experienced it.  And please don't put yourself in the place of God and substitute your own message for His.  In both Old and New Testaments, Jesus IS the message, foretold and fulfilled, respectively.  In the Bible the plain thing is the main thing, and the main thing is the plain thing, and in Old and New Testaments Jesus is both the main thing and the plain thing.  Many of His Old and New Testaments writing messengers died rather than deny the hope and message that God placed in their breast. 

You KNOW whether you have received something better than a cancer cure or not.  And you know that you can't credibly give away something you don't have.  So whose ambassador are you and what is your message and it's source today?

Discussion: Take some time out and role play being an ambassador.  Start by sharing the Gospel as presented in 1 Corinthians 15, and then briefly share your testimony of Life Before Christ, How you came to Trust Christ, and Life after Christ; about 5 minutes each.

Role Plays

Take this time to practice sharing Christ with others according to the constraints of the following Role Play situations.  Feel free to add other scenarios to get the practice you need.  Stop and critique each performance, adding ideas for improvement after each role play.  Have fun improving. Note that it is best to begin with prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit’s guidance and empowerment.  Then ask permission, like “Is it OK if I share with you how I came to trust in Christ as my savior?”  If there is an objection you can suggest that maybe another time will be better.  Note that open ended questions, following by respectful, empathetic listening, often produces excellent results.

  • Case 1: Person does not want to trust Christ; e.g. I can’t be that good; or I don’t have faith…
  • Case 2: I don’t want to appear religious or stand out from my friends…
  • Case 3: I’ll consider Christ later; now I want to live life my way…
  • Case 4: People who go to church are hypocrites (their walk doesn’t match their talk).
  • Case 5: What will I have to give up to be saved?
  • Case 6: Aren’t all religions about the same?  Don’t all roads lead to heaven?

Empathetic Listening

We recommended this topic during the introduction to Role Play cases.  The idea here is to focus on not only answers but also their attached feelings.  This will provide insight into past barriers or hurts that likely will need to be overcome. 

A summary of the LEAPS mnemonic is outlined below:

Listen- discern what is behind the words, including body language. 

Empathize- discern how they feel (feel “into” or with them).

Ask- specific open-ended questions (not yes/no or multiple choice questions)

Paraphrase- reply back with a concise statement of what you heard or discerned. “Correct?”

Summarize- wrap it up with a refined concise statement; leave the door open if further dialog is needed

The key to really helping is to connect or link with the person first, ideally by seeking first to understand, before seeking to be understood.  Asking the right open-ended question is critical to such success, followed by empathetic listening and key follow-up questions.  Common pitfalls include giving answers before listening for issues and problems the other person has, like Johnny Carson and Steve Allen used to do in their humorous skits. When people feel deeply understood, the door is open to offer and apply creative solutions. 

What are some good questions as intimated above?

  1. In your understanding, what does it take for a person to be allowed into heaven?
  2. How could an imperfect human be permitted in the presence of an infinite and holy God?
  3. What are some problems with the idea that “all religions are about the same, and each must lead to heaven?”
  4. What does the Bible say about God’s requirements for eternal life with Him?
  5. Do you think humans ever try to substitute their opinions in place of what God says?  How smart does that really sound?

Discussion:

  1. Try out the above questions and others to see which ones seem to work best.  Circle those.
  2. Discuss some of our pitfalls like giving answers before hearing where the other person is coming from; what helps us get on target rather than giving answers before issues are understood?
  3. Discuss any keys you were able to discern in the above role plays that made “empathetic listening” truly effective.

Really Helping vs. Enabling

This section treats some of the main issues related to effective help, in contrast to merely enabling people without helping them mature and improve.  As we help people with physical needs like food and clothes, many of us have been used, while the person we helped merely seems to seek who else they can find to help them, rather than making any changes to help themselves.  One general guideline here is to primarily help people with a need in which they seem to not be able to help themselves.

Many of us believe that meeting physical needs can help open the door to becoming able to meet their spiritual needs.  Jesus met both physical and spiritual needs.  For example He healed and fed people as well as forgiving their sins.  As His disciples we cooperate with him in both physical and spiritual ministries.  We cooperate, and He supplies the victorious resurrection power for all we do.  A good test for all such work is to check daily whether we are experiencing His promise that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Presenting the gospel and our testimony is always top priority.  Often the door to this is opened when we meet physical needs.  The following section deals with ideas on wisely meeting physical needs. 

People are quite adaptive and sometimes they learn to be manipulative to get their way or their objective.  One answer is to learn to set appropriate limits.  Examples can include:

  • buying a person a meal instead of giving cash that might be used to support an addictive habit
  • giving a ride instead of giving cash
  • discussing what alternatives and resources the person has instead of asking you for something; i.e. help them move from a habit of dependency to exploring how to be more responsible
  • helping the person learn how to become more responsible, such as earning money; making a budget; living according to that budget; respecting the time, money and resources of people who they ask for help; applying for disability help when appropriate.

How to effectively help others? Not too much nor too little.

What are some dangers in seeking to help others?

1-Pride or man’s works, rather than God’s

2-Judging others, or considering ourselves better than they are

3-Enabling them, or giving fish, rather than teaching them to fish for themselves

4-Us getting credit, rather than God

5-Substituting success in this area for our failures in another area.

What are some things to focus on when helping others?

  1. Communicate well first to understand: what they really need; what they want done; HOW they want it done; WHEN they want it done, who pays for materials, etc.
  2. Do the task in a workmanlike manner, but always give preference to the tastes, preferences, and choices of the recipient.
  3. Do your help as unto the Lord.
  4. Keep focused on the principle of “teaching to fish” rather than continuing to “give fish” (e.g. discuss long range alternatives for future help from various sources, as opposed to thinking “only you can help”

How to build a bridge?

  1. Look for ways to build a bridge between the help you are giving and spiritual things (help them connect the dots from earthly and physical needs to spiritual and eternal needs).
  2. Consider referencing and providing other resources (in person or via their writings or CDs, etc.) such as related articles, books, CDs, DVDs, people with common interests or special areas of expertise or counseling
  3. Consider getting together a small group of people with common interests or needs to listen to speakers, view CDs, or take a short course.

What are some practical lessons for effective helping from the “Compassionate Samaritan?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan- Luke 10

 30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

 31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant (Levite) walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

 33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins (2 days wages) telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

 36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

   Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

  1. Learn to see, detect, and identify genuine needs.
  2. Let God prepare your heart to care with some of His compassion.
  3. Take prompt and immediate action to get started.
  4. Let significant needs take priority over your own agenda, comfort zone, and interests.
  5. Be generous so the need is met and may not re-occur.
  6. Let God develop in you His gift of mercy (help others as you would like to receive help).

What are some practical lessons for effective helping from Matthew 25?

The Final Judgment

 31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

 37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,  you were doing it to me!’

  1. Feed the hungry and give them drink.
  2. Practice hospitality for strangers and lonely.
  3. Provide clothes for those in need.
  4. Help out the sick and disabled with their needs.
  5. Visit those neglected in jails and prisons.
  6. Do all this like you were doing it for Jesus.

What are some practical lessons for effective helping from Isaiah 58?

6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
   Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
      lighten the burden of those who work for you.
   Let the oppressed go free,
      and remove the chains that bind people.
 7 Share your food with the hungry,
      and give shelter to the homeless.
   Give clothes to those who need them,

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
      Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
 10 Feed the hungry,
      and help those in trouble.

  1. Work for Jail Diversion and “second chances”
  2. Work for better treatment of employees
  3. Work to improve conditions of oppression, failure to mix justice with mercy, and stop others from taking advantage of the poor, neglected, and defenseless people.
  4. Substitute help for accusation, judging, and spreading rumors and lies.
  5. Feed the hungry
  6. Help the underdog and those who seem to easily get into trouble.

Helping the Helpless

One of the best books I've read on " Helping the Helpless" is a NavPress book by William Fletcher called "The Second Greatest Commandment." It has a lot of wisdom and even has appendices with great "how to" guidance for how to effectively help the jobless, elderly, sick, and dying. I was even impressed enough with this book to teach it a couple of times in a Sunday School class. But the best way to teach it is to live it. I believe this subject is worthy of as much attention as one can give it. But today's subject has a different twist to this title. Today we are thinking together about the difficulties and roadblocks we can encounter when we attempt to extend help and experience to someone who is really not open to receiving any new ideas or resources (i.e. someone who I am calling "helpless" – i.e.not able to be helped at this time).

Who do you think of that tends to resist help. How about males? Would you dare to offer them directions or mid-course corrections? One time my work partner drove way up the seacoast north of Boston rather than stop and ask directions around the 128 loop. Males are trained to be independent, macho, and that "real men help others but don't ask for help and don't ask directions." No wonder so many of us go around like Mr. Magoo, lost and in a fog. But males don't have a monopoly on this deficit. Type A people in general have the great characteristics of driving toward a goal, achieving much, and getting a lot done for themselves and others. But it is very hard for them to even consider letting go of the reigns and letting a friend take care of them for awhile, even during periods of sickness, stress, or family problems. It is a strange paradox, isn't it, that such strong assets as independence and initiative can at times be debilitating liabilities.

So how does God feel about us being independent, macho, and thinking that "real people help others but don't ask for help and don't ask directions?" Surely "God helps those who help themselves", right? This is a good example of the claim that if you repeat something long enough people will believe it. Not only is that often the case with this popular saying, but many quote is as scripture, but of course they never give it's Bible reference since it can't be found there. Actually just the opposite is found there. We don't fool God. He knows that we are rebels against Him at heart, believing lies in place of trusting Him, from Adam and Eve to the very present day. He knows we are in desperate need of being restored to fellowship with Himself, but that requires heart surgery and cleaning, that in turn requires us to receive help so powerful that only God can supply it. And He did supply it in the human form of His Son Jesus, who willingly spilled His blood on the cross so all our sins could be cleansed forever. He knew that most ("helpless people") would reject His help, some for reasons we have been thinking about. But why would any reasonable person refuse the only help that can solve their otherwise unsolvable problem?

So when you are tempted to continue in your tradition of feeling independent, macho, and that "real people help others but don't ask for help and don't ask directions," remember that this works even worse with God than it does with your peers. Humility, openness, lowered defense mechanisms, listening instead of proclaiming your rights and responsibilities, admitting you could be wrong at times, and actually speaking the words, "I need help" are characteristics so unlike many of us that their absence blocks out the help we so desperately need. So how about you? Are you in step and feeling secure with the majority who continue to "do it my way" and miss the pattern God provided us at great expense? Or have you found the Pattern, whom to follow is to have eternal life? Jesus is our pattern who submitted His will to the will of His Father. Once you become courageous enough to open yourself up to asking for and welcoming help you will find some experienced people who can really help, and you will find your new life in fellowship with Christ to be way beyond what you could ever ask or think. He longs to hear this prayer on your heart; "…help of the helpless, O abide with me."

Discussion:

  1. Discuss how to avoid the pitfalls of enabling vs. becoming a more effective helper.
  2. Discuss patterns of human resistance to true help that would increase our responsibility; e.g. “path of least resistance,” selfish/bad habits, excuses, denial of need for change, denial of God’s plan and resources for us, etc.

Discipleship and Disciple-making Hindrances

The scriptures says we are not ignorant of the techniques and strategies Satan tries to use to catch us off balance, distract us from Discipleship and Disciple-making, and to derail us into sin and disobedience.  Reference [12] lists some contrasts between staying on target with Jesus vs. distortions that come from the world and from Satan.

As a homework assignment, please mark the 3 above that give you the most trouble.  Look up scriptures for these 3 that either help you enforce God’s perspective and victory, or that remind you of negative consequences as a deterrent to staying defeated in that area.  Consider sharing these during the next class period.  Keep these notes and make similar spiritual action plans for other needs you detect later.

Community Outreach

Several years ago a few of us started meeting once a week at our county court house to pray for county and city officials; schools, officials, and students; pastors and churches, national leaders and revival.  In a year or two this led to our action to knock on doors (mainly in poorer sections of town) to identify physical needs like food and clothes and spiritual needs like classes, prayer, and how to make sure of eternal life with God. 

I also mounted efforts to encourage more and richer prayer within and between churches that involved prayer teachers, pastor prayer summits, and slide presentations to churches and groups to stimulate prayer.  Small pockets of response and excitement have resulted, but nothing like a growing revival.  Four community Bible Studies now meet as outreach from such prayer groups. We were also able to encourage churches to adopt an apartment fire family to help with furniture, food, and cash, but still it appears most of our focus remains within our church walls. 

In spite of periodic special spiritual events, most of our churches seem to be earning grades like Jesus gave to the majority of the Asian churches in Revelation.   Although ideas, excitement, and commitment often work best top-down, I don’t think our next revival will come top-down.  One-to-one discipleship is still the best way to spread enthusiasm and commitment for prayer, the Kingdom of God, and spreading the message of reconciliation as His ambassadors.  Our pastor says that virtually all past revivals have started with lay people, after a foundation of earnest prayer.

Discussion: Have you prayed to the point of it moving you to love action in behalf of others?  What forms of action did that take?  Was it more like a chain reaction or some fizzling fireworks?  What kind of community outreach do you think God wants for us?  What might it look like if Jesus authorized it and empowered it?  As we knock on doors, do we have what people want?  If not, how do we get it?

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