What disciples?

As Christians, we are supposed to be “making disciples.” What disciples are you making? It’s a disturbing question. Don’t avoid it. Pick up a pen and paper or open a writing app and start a list. It’s scary. If you are like me, the blank page will stare back at you accusingly. 

It’s not fair to say I give money to the church and it’s making disciples. Maybe your church is or maybe it isn’t. Most of the money goes to overhead. Most churches are just churning up the folks they’ve always had or have borrowed from the church down the street. They may be full on Sunday, but it’s questionable whether they are full of disciples. After all, a disciple is someone who is making disciples. Kind of a cruel circle isn’t it. 

The sad truth is that the person who sits next to you on Sunday would probably have the same problem you are having in making a disciple list. It’s supposed to be our first priority. Remember “Seek first, the kingdom of heaven?” It’s not supposed to be something we turn to at the end of the workday or when we finally reach retirement age. 

How “good and faithful” our service has been won’t be determined by the church services or activities we attended or the checks we’ve written. It’s about making disciples. Our churches really don’t encourage “making disciples.” Some encourage bringing folks to church. That’s apparently where they will be made into disciples, but it’s not happening. 

In church we aren’t creating disciples, we are creating spiritual consumers. We go to church to be “fed” literally and spiritually. We want to come away bolstered by a sermon and encouraged by worship songs. We don’t walk away better equipped to “make disciples.” If we were, our lists wouldn’t be so blank. 

If you want to start being a disciple by making disciples look at the blank page where you started your disciple list and instead start writing down the names of potential disciples. Don’t leave off family members, co-workers or neighbors. Be bold and include the folks at church and the people you meet every day. Next, to each name make a note how you will take the first step in bringing them closer to being a loving follower of Jesus.

Congratulate yourself. You have finally started to be a real disciple. Feels good, doesn’t it?

 

October

October is my favorite month. It has much to do with the weather. The heavy heat of summer is finally pierced by cooler, drier, crisper weather. The leaves are changing and falling. The weeds have stopped taking over my yard. The weather brings football, fresh television programming, and gumbo.  Life is good.

It’s harvest time. I grew up in Crowley and October brought the Rice Festival. We walked the crowded streets, enjoyed the rides at the fair, and watched or marched in parades. I remember 1959 when Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy came. I was ten.  He was running for president and she wowed the audience by speaking in French. I will never forget the line of black limos in which they blew in and out-of-town.

I think Jesus will come back in October. This is not based on some careful study of the books of Daniel or Revelation. It’s just my gut feeling based on the harvest-like nature of the month. He won’t come in limos nor will he leave as quickly as he arrives. For some, it will be a time of great joy. For others, not so much. It will be harvest time when the wheat and chaff will be separated. I don’t know if it will be this October, but the possibility should make us even more determined to share the possibility, it’s importance and finality. It’s amazing that with all the communication marvels of the age, that there are still so many who haven’t really heard.

October ends with Halloween. I’m not a big fan. It’s become such a big “holiday.” It wasn’t such a big deal when I was a kid. It was fun, but not a big deal. It ends my favorite month with a grim reminder that Satan is still “god” of this world. Maybe this will be the last year that he is. Maybe this will be the last Halloween and the most glorious October ever.

A Good Man

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. Mark 10:18

Ed Orgeron, the LSU Football coach, is, according to almost everyone, a good man. Someone called me “a good man” recently and, I have to say, it’s a mixed blessing.

“You are a good man” is a “but” sentence. “You are a good man, but I think we should break up.” “You are a good man, but you’re fat and ugly.” “You are a good man, but a lousy coach.” See what I mean?

Calling someone “good” is always conditional. Like Jesus said, “no one is good–except God alone.” So calling someone “good” is, in the purest sense, a lie. 

There is more to it, however. Most folks are uncomfortable with goodness. I have been a lawyer for 35 years. I have found clients don’t want a good man to represent them, they want a good lawyer. They assume that means someone who will do whatever it takes to win, regardless of goodness. In fact, sadly, most folks think the “best” lawyers are the unscrupulous ones, that you can’t be a good man and a good lawyer. 

This is part of Ed Orgeron’s problem. Most fans believe a head football coach has to be willing to cut corners, to be “bad.” Payoffs, lying to recruits, and at least a bit of cheating is assumed. It’s gotten so bad in college basketball that the FBI has gotten involved. Trust me, it’s just as bad in football and in lawyering. 

So, Ed, I would say your days in coaching are numbered. It may be that you are a bad coach, but at least partially it will be because you are a good man. Sadly, in the eyes of many, the two are mutually exclusive. It’s no accident that the generally acknowledged “best” coach in college football, lives in Alabama and has “Satan” as a nickname.

 

September 23, 2017

Something really big was supposed to happen yesterday. If it did, I missed it. Lots of the so-called “Prophesy” teachers agreed. Some said it was the “end of the world.” Most were less definitive, hinting it might be the rapture or a really big disaster. Guess they were covering their bases if nothing happened. They pointed to the recent hurricanes and earthquakes or signs in the heavens or their personal insights into the Books of Daniel or Revelations. Some made money off of all this. I’m really sick of these guys.

First of all, please be clear. I do believe in the soon return of Jesus and the rapture. I was even disappointed that it didn’t happen yesterday. I also believe Jesus when He told us no man knows the date. I agree the world is getting really bad and that we haven’t seen the end of really bad things even maybe nuclear destruction.

These “prophets” are telling us we should “get ready” and “tell others.” Well, shouldn’t we be doing that anyway? Shouldn’t we live lives that make us ready at any time to be giving an explanation to our Lord? I don’t know when the world will end but the end of my world isn’t that far away. I’m 68 years old. Like many before me, I hope the rapture happens before my personal end, but I shouldn’t bet on it. 

These “prophets” spend tons of time and energy on their main interest and not much in making disciples or loving each other. The things that they predicted didn’t happen yesterday, but lots of things did. Millions died without Jesus. Hurricane and earthquake victims remained homeless. Children died of starvation. Most of the world dreamed of lives that we complain about. 

I am angry at those who divert others from the mission we are all called to. I am upset about the unloved strangers, unfed starving, and unvisited prisoners. I am also angry at the guy in the mirror who didn’t spend yesterday meeting those needs either. I spent the day in my recliner watching football with one eye on the news, in case the “prophets” turned out to be right.

It’s foolish to spend time trying to figure out when the clock will run out instead of doing all that we can before it does. I’m just as foolish as the next guy.  September 23, 2017, turned out to be just another day when important things weren’t done. That’s really sad. I hope I’ll do better with the days I’ve got left.

Uncommon

There’s a lot of bad stuff out there. Everywhere there seems to be exhaustion, worry, stress, anger, and hopelessness. For most, the goal has become just survival. It’s not just in the world, it seems to be the case for many in the church. Bad stuff is common.

We aren’t supposed to be living that kind of life. Our lives, as Christians, should be uncommon. Aren’t we a chosen people, a royal priesthood, taking the narrow way, being the exceptions.

We are called to lives of uncommon knowledge, strength, destiny, and mission. For most of us, it’s not happening. This Sunday morning at Amana Christian Fellowship, at the 9 a.m. teaching time I will be discussing the Uncommon life. Hope to see you there.

Marrying Your Best Friend

In the wee hours of this morning, I heard a discussion on the radio about a new book which apparently recommends you don’t marry your best friend. I don’t remember the name of the book and since I disagree with its basic premise I didn’t do a lot of research to find it. If you are interested, you know all about google.

I didn’t marry my best friend. When I got married in 1970, I wasn’t looking for a best friend, I was looking for a hot little number and that’s what I got. It’s a blessing that she turned out to be a faithful wife, wonderful mom and grandmother and, yes, eventually a perfect best friend. If after 47 years of marriage, your spouse isn’t your best friend you are doing friendship wrong. I don’t care what any book says. 

I will caution this way. Your spouse shouldn’t be your only friend. We lay way too much on our spouses, especially the good ones. There should be others that can share our emotional burdens and our whining and complaining. Most of us are too much for any one best friend to handle.  Once more chances are one of us will outlive the other. It would be great if there are persons out around who, though may never replace our best friend, will be around to help us through the loss of that best friend. Think about it. If your best friend went to be with Jesus today, who would you have to help you through

Further chances are one of us will outlive the other. Simultaneous death of life-long loves is romantic, but very rare. It would be great if there are persons who, though they will never replace our best friend, will be around to help us through the loss of that best friend. Think about it. If your best friend went to be with Jesus today, who would you have to help you through?

Call them your second best friend or your best-friend-in-waiting or your mourner-in-chief. I’m not sure I have one. Maybe that book served its purpose; it’s given me something important to think about. It’s just not fair to pray that I die first. Who would do that to a best friend or a hot little number?

From “I never knew you” to “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I think when I get to heaven I will be shocked at how simple it all was and how complicated I tried to make it. My only consolation will be that I made it and that I wasn’t the only one who made it seem harder than it should be. 

At times I have known in my head that it was simple, but I never let it stay that way. I would think things like, “Surely, there has to be more.” or “I don’t deserve it. I need to do something else.” 

From the words of Jesus I should know that it’s all about relationship with Him and what He did and does through me. It’s not about what I do or deserve. I know that when I recognize what He’s done that I am compelled to do things. I can’t stop myself, but it’s not those things that earn my way; they are just evidence of what he’s done.

What about when things are not so great? When I do things I am ashamed of. Those too aren’t important, for forgiveness and forgetfulness or right at hand. He knew all along I would fall. He died and planned for that from the beginning.

I read “I never knew you” and begin to doubt the relationship in which he has daily made himself known to me, intervened in my life and blessed me beyond measure. Why should I doubt?

I read “well done” and look on the filthy rags of my efforts forgetting that doing well means not achievement but knowledge and reliance and trust. What else do I have?

It’s really not far from “I never knew you” to “Well done.” It’s a short trip glancing back at the footprints we, he and I,  have left in the sands of my life. Mostly just His when He carried me.

 

A Blessed Life

I was eating gumbo from Chris’ last night and got to thinking about my blessed life. I know gumbo doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I remember living for years in California or Florida or Mississippi when you couldn’t get good gumbo at a fast food place. I’ve lived back home since 1981 and that’s a blessed thing. Then I came across the above photo. 

I can look out my window from my air-conditioned room and see a forest of green in summer and changing leaves in the fall.  I have been able to work out of my house for years and spend most days with my lovely wife. I guess that makes up for being away for months at a time in the waters off of Vietnam. I have a beautiful daughter, grandkids and great grands. They all live around me. Harvey seems to be headed to Texas and not Acadiana. I am blessed.

I think being blessed is really an attitude. It’s the ability, that I don’t always have, of spending an appropriate amount of time looking up and looking down. 

I need to spend more time looking up at my great God and getting validation and inspiration from Him and not from a rapidly collapsing world system. I need to look “down” on a world full of folks who can’t even conceive of a life like mine. I can’t comprehend waking up with my family in a garbage dump.   

I need to somehow use these upward and downward views not as a cause of satisfaction, but a call to action. The only purpose of blessing is to be a blessing. I need to remember that standing or sitting during the national anthem, having Obama Care or Trump Care, whether statues of the long dead stand or fall,  aren’t really matters of eternal significance.  Wondering if there is any gumbo left over, probably isn’t the most important issue of my day.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem, I wonder what he’s thinking today about me in my air-conditioned room and those kids waking up in a garbage dump.