Friendship and Surrender

As Jonathan and David’s story unfolds, we see deeper into Jonathan’s heart. He was in line to inherit the throne from his father, Saul, but due to Saul’s stubbornness and disobedience, his family lost the right of succession. Jonathan’s loss of the throne was due to no fault of his own, and yet he stayed submissive to the purpose of God even though it meant a lesser role for him. Not only was it a diminished role, but he submitted himself to the very man who was to take his place on the throne.

    And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and

helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,”

he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.

You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.”

  Even my father Saul knows this.” (1 Samuel 23:16-18,

emphasis added)

Jonathan had the freedom to love and serve David rather than consider him a threat because he was surrendered to God’s purpose in all things. Viewing others from a surrendered heart removes all threat and gives us the opportunity and privilege to lay down our lives for our friends, first out of our love for God but also out of love for our friends and disciples. Also, David could trust Jonathan because Jonathan’s surrendered heart would never allow him to thwart God’s plan. A surrendered heart finds joy in making others a success, no matter the cost.

In closing:

  • As a disciple-maker you must surrender to the Lord’s purpose not only for your life but also for your disciple’s life (or your child’s life if a parent) even if it does not fit into your ideals or desires.
  • Trust is built between you and your disciple and between your disciple and the Lord as he witnesses your continual surrender to the Lord’s purpose for your life and for his life. (David observed Jonathan’s life for 13 years.) Many have felt like pawns in the hands of others, sadly even in the name of God and Christianity, so it will be extraordinary for him to find someone who has God’s purpose and concern for his life over other agendas.
  • Your surrender to the Lord’s purpose will empower your disciple to surrender to the Lord’s purpose for his life.

 

 

 

Your Disciple, Your Friend

The concept of friendship begins in the essence of the Godhead. As the Trinity relates to one another in love, delight, and service, so should our friendships be. God relates to man as a friend with Adam, Eve, Abraham, and Moses, and later when Jesus comes to earth as God in human form, he is a friend with his disciples, Lazarus, Martha, Mary, and even sinners.

As children of God our friendships are never just between two people. As Jesus’ friends were drawn into relationship with his Father, because he and his Father were one, so our friends are drawn into relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, because we are united with God.

The triad nature of our friendships (my friend, me, God) makes them fundamentally different than the world’s model of friendship. We are one with God and therefore he is in the midst of each of our friendships. This safeguards against dysfunction and selfishness and empowers us to extend love to our friends as an outflow of God’s love for us. We are able to absorb rejection and are immune from manipulation because our security is based on a relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and not in human relationships. In fact, we are simply adding our new friend to our already established relationship with God.

In closing:

  • Your relationship with your disciple is a friendship as demonstrated by Jesus and Paul with their disciples.
  • Building a friendship with your disciple is an important means of him becoming a follower of Jesus.
  • Your friendship with your disciple not only draws him into relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but also with other disciples.
  • The courage needed to make disciples comes from God’s relationship with you. His love will both empower and protect as you develop the friendship with your disciple.

The Pursuit of Beauty

Beauty transforms lives. To follow Jesus is to pursue beauty because he is the embodiment of all that is beautiful. The story of Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection is the most beautiful ever told.

Jesus demonstrates for us how to replace the odious with the beautiful through his interaction with his disciples. Beauty is cultivated in the life of a disciple by him experiencing the beautiful. Jesus taught his men the beauty of serving by washing their feet. Later they experienced the beauty of placing others ahead of themselves when Jesus laid down his life for them.

The cost of making a disciple is your willingness to sacrifice your life for your disciple in order for him to experience beauty. Just being taught about serving or being instructed about sacrifice does not change a life; rather it is by the laying down of your life for your disciple that he will come to understand spiritual truth. It is only in the experience of being served or in the experience of having another lay down his life for you does the life changing power of beauty take affect.

Disciple Making and Children #2

Recently I was with a Jewish couple that had converted from Judaism to Christianity.  One difficulty in the transition was the home life.   Judaism had provided for them a template for a Jewish home (e.g., keeping the Sabbath, Passover, and feasts, etc.), whereas Christianity gave them little help on what a Christian home should look like.  (Other than they were told to be sure and get their children into Sunday school and youth group.)  As Voddie Baucham points out, Christianity’s approach to ministry communicates to parents: “leave the spiritual training of your children to the professions.” [1]

God gave the Israelite parent the responsibility for the spiritual training of their child.  To be an Israelite meant to train children for a lifetime-not only were they expected to teach their own children but also their grandchildren.  “…teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10)

Since God is familial (Father-Son-Holy Spirit) the best environment for a child to learn and experience the nature of God is in a family.  Are there benefits for a child in attending Sunday school, children’s ministry, vacation bible school, and youth group? Sure.  But the best context for him to experience sacrificial love, belonging, grace, and a servant’s heart is in a home.  Here, day after day, year after year, a child learns what it means to belong in a family just as the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are in perfect union.


[1] Voddie Baucham  http://media.sermonindex.net/15/SID15607.mp3

 

Generational Love

Lois Synder died this year, she was 96.  Mrs. Synder taught my 2nd grade Sunday school class and directed our Christmas pageant each year at the Christian Fellowship Church. I attended her memorial service with my mom and dad in the same auditorium where in 1952 Lois had decided to follow Jesus.  When the Synder family walked into the service that afternoon I was moved.  Before us stood 3 generations who follow Jesus nearly 60 years after Lois’ conversion.

In the service family and friends shared their memories of Lois.  It was in these stories that we discovered the reason why her family still follows Jesus today: Lois loved well.  She so loved her children and grandchildren in their formative years that this love overflowed to her great grandchildren.  Not only did Lois love her family, but each week she would load her car with teaching materials and go share the gospel with children living in the inner-city.

Lois’ seemingly endless ability to love others flowed from her understanding of God’s love for her grounded in the cross of Jesus.  God’s love for me will not be found in my circumstances, my heritage, my abilities, or my position, rather it is anchored in the truth that Jesus died for me.   “. . . God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

God shows me how to love others in Jesus’ death for me.  John writes: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16-17” Once I begin to grasp the depth of God’s love for me, I am then able to love others in sacrificing my life for them.  It will cost me to love my mate, my children, my friends, and my disciples.

How silly a question it would seem if we could ask Lois today, “Was it worth it?”  I can only imagine the joy in her heart in seeing 3 generations loving God and loving one another. 

The Kindness of Friendship

Jonathan is my hero.  He provides for us an example of the heart of friendship a discipler should have towards his disciple.  Though a courageous warrior, Jonathan was a kind man, living counter to his surroundings and upbringing.  His father, King Saul, was an angry, violent, proud, and irrational person. Although his siblings were products of their environment, Jonathan became humble, loyal, affectionate, and a good friend.  He gives us hope that we are not fated to repeat our family’s dysfunction and self-destructive behavior.

As the story of Jonathan and David’s friendship unfolds we get a glimpse into the heart of Jonathan.  Though heir to the throne, Jonathan was submissive to the purpose and will of God even though it meant for him a displacement to a secondary role.  He actually chose to be a friend to the very man who would take his place as king.

But are there really any secondary roles in God’s economy?   I do not believe that David could have become the man of God that he did without the foundation of Jonathan’s friendship in his life.  Jonathan not only loved David but he taught him how to place a confidence in the purpose of God.  Once when David was running for his life from Saul, Jonathan was able to speak courage into the heart of David because of his own trust in the sovereignty of God.

And Saul’s son, Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.  You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.  Even my father Saul knows this.”  The two of them made a covenant before the Lord.  Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.  (1 Samuel 23:16-18)

Placing others ahead of myself is at the heart of following Jesus and making disciples.  To be a follower of Jesus is to live for others.  This is not only what Jesus taught but also what he displayed by his life.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

When I place the interest of my friend’s life ahead of my own I am illustrating the good news of Jesus to the world.   My nature is to watch out for myself and trust no one.  Only my surrender to the sovereign purpose of God can rescue me from the pull of self-centeredness.

Jonathan embraced God’s purpose for his own life by understanding and embracing God’s purpose for his friend David’s life.  Jonathan then purposed to join God in making David king and to serve him as the second man; in other words, to make David a success.

It is when I recognize that there is a divine purpose for the life of my disciple and that I willingly join the Holy Spirit in fulfilling that purpose, no matter the cost, that I become a true friend.    Many want a Jonathan and David type friendship but few are willing to pay the price.  It is in losing my life for the sake of a friend that I find my own life’s purpose.

Hospitality: A Starting Point For Making Disciples

Hospitality is a good starting place for making disciples.  It provides for you an opportunity to serve your disciple and to carve out a safe place for him to belong. Serving and making followers of Jesus are inseparable.  Jesus told his disciples:

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:43-45)

Hospitality not only allows your disciple to observe service to others, it also provides him an opportunity to become part of the serving process; whether it is cutting the bread, setting the table, or taking drink orders.  Teaching your disciple hospitality is an important component for the spreading of the gospel through serving others.

Henri Nouwen writes:

How does healing take place?  Many words, such as care and compassion, understanding and forgiveness, fellowship and community, have been used for the healing task of the Christian minister.  I like to use the word hospitality, not only because it has such deep roots in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, but also, and primarily, because it gives us more insight into the nature of response to the human condition of loneliness.  Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break through the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveler.  Hospitality makes anxious disciples into powerful witnesses, makes suspicious owners into generous givers and makes closed-minded sectarians into interested recipients of new ideas and insights.

Recommended Reading on Hospitality:

  • “Real Love for Real Life:  The Art and Work of Caring” by Andi Ashworth.  Colorado Springs: Shaw Books.  ISBN  0-87788-048-4
  • “Contagious Holiness:  Jesus’ Meal with Sinners” by Craig L. Blomberg.  Downers Grove:  InterVarsity Press.  ISBN  0-8308-2620-3
  • “Reaching Out:  The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life” by Henri J.M. Nouwen. Garden City: Doubleday. ISBN  0-385-03212-9
  • “A Gentleman Entertains: A Guide to Making Memorable Occasions Happen” by John Bridges and Bryan Curtis.  Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 2000.  ISBN 1-55853-812-7 (Great for beginners!)
  • Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition” by Christine D. Pohl.
  • “L’Abri” by Edith Schaeffer.  Wheaton:  Crossway Books, 1969, 1992.  ISBN  0-89107-668-9

Why Hospitality?

Making disciples of Jesus is best done in the context of your home, whether for your natural children or your spiritual children.  Disciples are the children of God; therefore the home is an ideal environment for a disciple to experience, (1) the parental nature of God, (2) what it means to belong to a family, (3) how to love and serve others, and (4) how to attach to brothers and sisters.  Children can witness what it means to follow Jesus by observing the daily lives of their parents in various circumstances.

In the West we tend to compartmentalize our lives, often separating our ministry from our home.  Even when ministry is conducted in the home, it tends to be done as a “study” or “meeting” rather than being a family gathering.  (In the many small group training conferences that I have attended, never did “family” or “a meal” enter the discussion.  A house was only a convenient place to hold a meeting.)

Some Benefits of Hospitality:

  • Hospitality provides you an opportunity to serve your disciple.  (Serving is another way to say “I love you”.)
  • Hospitality opens up your life to your disciple.  (A person’s home tells a lot about a person.  I have been in very few homes of pastors or church leaders.)
  • Hospitality provides your disciple an opportunity to observe how you relate to your wife and children.
  • Hospitality provides an opportunity for your children to serve others and to learn how to share.
  • Hospitality provides an opportunity for your children to love others and for others to love your children.   (A hug from a 4 year old will melt any heart.)
  • Hospitality provides an opportunity for your children to observe how you minister and interact with others.
  • Hospitality provides a place for your disciple to belong.
  • Hospitality provides a place for your disciple to serve.  (Help cook, help clean up, help with the children)
  • Hospitality provides you an opportunity for you to observe how your disciple relates to others.

Hometown Disciple Making #2

One question I am asked frequently is “how do you know who to disciple?”  One criterion I use is that the disciple lives in close proximity.   Jesus selected Capernaum to be his hometown and base for his ministry.  He chose men to disciple who lived and worked in the same region.  As Michael Wilkins has pointed out: “Most of the twelve disciples were from Capernaum and Bethsaida…” [1]

Being near to your disciples is important in order for you to know your disciples, for your disciples to know you, and for the disciples to know one another.  (This is not to say that longer distances between you and your disciple cannot work, but generally living close provides a better environment to make disciples.)

Here are some reasons why it is better if your disciples live near you:

  • For the Discipler:
    • The discipler needs to have access to his disciples during times of their personal suffering.  Trials are important times because they are the work of God in the life of your disciple.
    • Living in close proximity allows the discipler to serve the physical needs of his disciple.
    • When he (Jesus) had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. . . “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:12-17).
    • “The pivotal pronouncement of servanthood in Mark 10:45 declares the essence of Jesus’ ministry.  By comprehending this, the disciples will comprehend the essence of discipleship as servanthood, including their motivation, position, ambition, expectations and example.  The disciple who is privileged to be a member of Jesus’ kingdom is a servant…” [2]
    • Life together allows the discipler to witness how his disciple responds to the circumstances of life and how he relates to people.
  • For the Disciple:
    • The disciple has the opportunity to imitate his discipler by observing the way he lives out following Jesus. (e.g. How he treats his wife, relates to his children, relates to others, and responds to suffering.) Paul became a model for others by first living among them.  “You know how we lived among you for your sake.  You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1 Thess 1:5-6).
    • “Even though it is probable that Jesus’ disciples memorized much of his teaching and passed it on as the tradition of the church, the disciples were committed more to his person than to his teaching.  Following Jesus means togetherness with him and service to him while traveling on the Way” [3].
    • The disciple has the chance to interact with your other disciples.

[1] M.J. Wilkins, Disciples. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1992) p. 177.
[2] Ibid p. 184.
[3] Ibid p. 187.

A Servant’s Heart and Making Disciples 3

How are disciples of Jesus made?

New disciples are birthed when I die to my life and place others ahead of myself by serving them. It is not the act of service itself that changes the disciple; rather it is the death to self occurring in the discipler that produces spiritual life in the disciple. Jesus gives us the key to kingdom multiplication in John 12 when he says to his disciples:

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:23-26)

Paul viewed his ministry in this same way when he writes: “…so then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12). It is critical that a servant’s heart is cultivated in each disciple in order that the multiplication of the kingdom will continue. Most church growth strategies focus on expansion on a corporate or group level. Either churches begin other churches or a small group multiplies my growing numerically and then dividing. I believe that Jesus intended for kingdom expansion to be on the individual level; each disciple producing another disciple.

How long should I serve a disciple, especially when there does not seem to be any progress?

This life change and multiplication process in a disciple will take longer than you thought it would and requires the discipler to patient. The disciple is often unaware of the significance of being served by his discipler until later. Jesus served the twelve for three years and yet on the night before his crucifixion the disciples were still debating among themselves who was the greatest (Luke 22:24). Once again the Lord used this opportunity to instruct and demonstrate the kingdom value of a servant’s heart. To be a follower of Jesus is to be servant.