The Daily Bread: The Steadfast Love of the Lord

Today’s study is on Psalm 107.  Before getting into the Word of God, I want to tell you what this Psalm is about and then we will discuss four examples of God’s steadfast love toward the Israelites. Psalm 107 is the first chapter of Book Five of the Psalms. It opens with a community of thanksgiving and then accompanied by the offering of sacrifices as seen in Psalm 107:22. Each example contains an invitation to give thanks for what God has done for them. Let me point out that God’s steadfast love pertained to His covenant with Israel, which is God’s devotion to His people. He has bound Himself to His chosen people, which today includes Gentiles who have come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

Psalm 107:1-43

107 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry dwell,
and they establish a city to live in;
37 they sow fields and plant vineyards
and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their livestock diminish.

39 When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction
and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad,
and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

As you can see from the reading of Scripture, verses 1-3 are an invitation to give thanks. “The Lord is good and His steadfast love endures forever.” As mentioned previously, “His steadfast love is God’s covenant devotion, by which He binds Himself to His people.”[1] In verse 3, the people are gathered from the lands in which they had been held captive. This is an indication of the Babylonian exile. Therefore, the people should be giving thanks for what God did and that He delivered them.

The first example of God’s steadfast love was when God guides those who were wondering in the wilderness to a city as mentioned in verses 4-9. These people were wandering from place to place without shelter and food. They were thirsty and in distress. They cried out to the Lord and He delivered them by to a city to dwell in. The Lord led them to a city to dwell in, filled their hearts and hungry souls with good things. It was through His wondrous works and His readiness to answer the prayers of His people, which displayed His steadfast love.

The second example of God’s steadfast love was that He delivered His people from imprisonment to freedom. See verses 10-16 in which some of His people sat in prisons, shackled in irons. Because they had rebelled against the words of God, He chastised His people with hard labor to get them to repent from their evil ways. He allowed it because His people were defiant against the ways of the Lord. When His people finally called out and cried to Him in repentance, He broke their shackles and freed them.

The third example of God’s steadfast love was when God saved the foolish rebels when they called on Him as mentioned in verses 17-22. “These fools were not without intelligence, but they refused to face the reality that the Lord is God. Foolishness is an ethical-spiritual category and not an intellectual one.”[2] Scripture mentions, “Some were fools through their sinful ways.” Because of their sin, they became sick and did not want to eat food (17-18). They cried out to the Lord and He delivered them from their distress and destruction.

In the fourth and final example, God’s steadfast love rescues those in trouble at sea. In verses 23-31, God delivers those who are in storms on the sea. They cried to the Lord and He calmed the storm through His Devine power. We can compare this to Mark 4:35-41 when Jesus calmed the storm when His disciples were in fear during a violent storm. “Christ demonstrated His power from High when He stilled the waters.”[3]

The Scripture goes on to say that God can turn rivers into a desert and deserts into pools of water. He can turn a fruitful land into a salty waste. God allowed His people to dwell in the land of Canaan, in which He gave it to Israel. The hungry were now prospering and they established a city to live in with crop fields, vineyards, and livestock (Cf. 33-38).

The takeaway from Psalm 107 is to always depend on God in everything. Do not rebel against Him, but live a life of Christ in all that we do. Jesus will provide all of our needs regardless of our circumstance. Only in rebellion will we see God’s wrath, but in our submission to Him, we will see his steadfast love and His wondrous works. His wondrous works are His blessings on our lives and businesses. I shall close with this last verse from Psalm 107:43, “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.”

References:

[1] The Reformation Study Bible, RC Sproul, General Editor, (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 959.

[2] Reformation Study Bible, 2015, 960.

[3] Ibid, 960.

Copyright © February 25, 2019. The Lantern & Shield Times, a Division of Marketplace Evangelism Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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The Daily Bread: Unfaithfulness to God

Today’s study is based on Psalm 106. As I sit and read through this Psalm, it reminds me of our present nation and all of God’s blessings over the years. Our people have turned their backs on God just like Israel. Today, I will be highlighting some of the key points from the Scripture to think about. The following is the entire Psalm so that you may refer to the exact passage for reference.

Psalm 106

Israel’s Unfaithfulness to God

Hallelujah!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his faithful love endures forever.
Who can declare the Lord’s mighty acts
or proclaim all the praise due him?
How happy are those who uphold justice,
who practice righteousness at all times.

Remember me, Lord,
when you show favor to your people.
Come to me with your salvation
so that I may enjoy the prosperity
of your chosen ones,
rejoice in the joy of your nation,
and boast about your heritage.

Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have done wrong and have acted wickedly.
Our fathers in Egypt did not grasp
the significance of your wondrous works
or remember your many acts of faithful love;
instead, they rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his power known.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the power of the adversary;
he redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 Water covered their foes;
not one of them remained.
12 Then they believed his promises
and sang his praise.

13 They soon forgot his works
and would not wait for his counsel.
14 They were seized with craving in the wilderness
and tested God in the desert.
15 He gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 In the camp they were envious of Moses
and of Aaron, the Lord’s holy one.
17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;
it covered the assembly of Abiram.
18 Fire blazed throughout their assembly;
flames consumed the wicked.

19 At Horeb they made a calf
and worshiped the cast metal image.
20 They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating ox.
21 They forgot God their Savior,
who did great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
awe-inspiring acts at the Red Sea.
23 So he said he would have destroyed them—
if Moses his chosen one
had not stood before him in the breach
to turn his wrath away from destroying them.

24 They despised the pleasant land
and did not believe his promise.
25 They grumbled in their tents
and did not listen to the Lord.
26 So he raised his hand against them with an oath
that he would make them fall in the desert
27 and would disperse their descendants
among the nations,
scattering them throughout the lands.

28 They aligned themselves with Baal of Peor
and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods.
29 They angered the Lord with their deeds,
and a plague broke out against them.
30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stopped.
31 It was credited to him as righteousness
throughout all generations to come.

32 They angered the Lord at the Waters of Meribah,
and Moses suffered because of them;
33 for they embittered his spirit,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples
as the Lord had commanded them
35 but mingled with the nations
and adopted their ways.
36 They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons.
38 They shed innocent blood—
the blood of their sons and daughters
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
so the land became polluted with blood.
39 They defiled themselves by their actions
and prostituted themselves by their deeds.

40 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against his people,
and he abhorred his own inheritance.
41 He handed them over to the nations;
those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were subdued under their power.
43 He rescued them many times,
but they continued to rebel deliberately
and were beaten down by their iniquity.

44 When he heard their cry,
he took note of their distress,
45 remembered his covenant with them,
and relented according to the abundance
of his faithful love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
before all their captors.

47 Save us, Lord our God,
and gather us from the nations,
so that we may give thanks to your holy name
and rejoice in your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Hallelujah!

Psalm 106 focuses mainly on human sin. Israel suffered much due to her own sin against God. Although the people of Israel are God’s chosen people, the psalmist does not assume that he will enjoy God’s blessing, therefore he turns to God for prayer as seen in verse 4. In verse 6, this is an acknowledgement that Israel has deliberately and constantly rebelled against God. Then the psalmist gives an example in how The Lord spared Israel’s life when they had left Egypt and were at the Red Sea. God parted and dried up the waters of the sea so that Israel could escape the Egyptian army. Even when Israel continued to rebel against God and their fate should have been death, God parted the sea and then filled it back in drowning the Egyptian army as seen in verse 7-12.

Again, after the Red Sea incident, they soon forgot His works as their thanks and faith were short lived. Their forgetfulness lead to disobedience. They continued to rebel and God put them to the test (cf. 13-15).

In Horeb, they made a metal calf and worshipped it. They placed a metal idol in the place of God. They exchanged God’s glory to the metal idol and forgot God their Savior and all His wondrous works done in the land of Ham (Egypt) and at the Red Sea. The works mentioned in Egypt were that of the Ten Plagues. If it were not for Moses standing before God, God would have destroyed Israel (cf. 19-23).

They doubted God and despised the Promised Land because of their lack of faith. God raised his hand in an oath showing God’s determination to judge the sons of Israel. The punishment was that they would be scattered among other nations (cf. 24-27).

The Israelites yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices of the dead. By worshipping a foreign idol was like becoming a beast of burden. Baal was a god of the eastern Mediterranean region at the time Israel was entering the Promised Land. Eating the sacrifices of the dead refers to such incidents as a Canaanite funeral which involves heavy drinking, feasting, and obscene lust. This provoked the Lord to anger and a plague broke out among them. When Israel took those steps to idolatry, Phinehas took a violent step to bring Israel back to God. God made a covenant with his family to give them priesthood (cf. 28-31).

The people continued to anger God at the Waters of Meribah. Moses suffered because of their sin and his spirit became bitter because of their willful mistrust of God and their survival in the wilderness (cf. 32-33).

The Israelites mixed with the nations as opposed to destroying the people like God had commanded. Because of their willful disobedience, they learned to worship idols, sacrificed their children to these false gods and demons, and the land was “polluted with blood.” They became unclean by their acts. The spiritual reality behind worshipping idols is demonic, which is a world of hostility towards God. By joining themselves to these false idols, they committed spiritual adultery (cf. 34-39).

The Lord’s anger was kindled against His people and he detested His heritage and His people were delivered into the hands of the nations. The Israelites hated those who ruled over them. Their enemies oppressed them. God would deliver them only for His people reject His ways again and again (cf. 40-43).

Then God remembered His covenant and commitment to His people. This caused Him to continue with His people even when they constantly turned their backs on Him (cf. 44-48).

Looking back at God’s own chosen people, all the miraculous works that God did on their behalf, only for them to continue to turn their backs on Him. Then I look at our own nation where the very same things are occurring today. Willful disobedience of God’s ways and precepts. Therefore, God sent His one and only Son, Jesus. Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save everyone in it. But people today reject Jesus and they want to do their own thing and not give God any time.

I wonder what punishment God will place on the United States as she continues down the path she is on? Unfaithfulness to God can only lead to death, destruction, plagues, strife, and punishment.

But there is a way to come back to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Won’t you consider turning your life over to Him today? I pray that you will come to know the loving and risen Savior and will commit your life to Him.

References:

The Reformation Study Bible, RC Sproul, ed., Reformation Trust, 2015.

The Spurgeon Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, 2017.

Copyright © February 23, 2019. The Lantern & Shield Times, a Division of Marketplace Evangelism Ministries Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Racism and Hatred: Derived from One Source

Christians, we need to be on our knees praying for the lost, our leaders (regardless of political party), and for the unborn. The war we fight is not a physical war but a spiritual war. We need to practice our faith in love and stop vomiting hatred towards others.

Most recently, in Virginia we have been faced with accusations against our Governor, Ralph Northam because of a racial picture that appeared in his medical school yearbook under his name. He originally apologized for it, then the next day, he denied that it was him. He then went on to say that he dressed up like Michael Jackson and painted his cheeks black with black shoe polish. He is adamant that he will not step down.

Then the Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault. This allegedly occurred in 2004 at the Democrat National Convention in Boston according to news sources.

Now our Attorney General, Mark Herring admitted that he painted his face black as an undergraduate in college.

All three of Virginia’s top leaders have controversies that most likely will end their political careers.

In reference to the sexual assault, it is reported that the assault was reported to Virginia Congressman, Bobby Scott, as a #MeToo allegation. It is unknown why this was not investigated a year ago.

In contrast to all of this, there are people who have so much hatred against Democrats and Republicans, that they revert to name calling and distasteful conversation on social media. As Christian’s, we should not be name calling and spewing hatred from our lips. Jesus calls Christians to love the sinner but hate the sin.

The Bible tells us that we should keep our tongue from evil and keep our lips from speaking deceitful speech (1 Peter 3:10). Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Proverbs 10:19, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” Proverbs 15:4, The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” There are many more, but these are a few to meditate on.

The issue at hand is a heart issue. Many people are angry at leaders, both on the Democratic and the Republican sides. I am not here defending abortion promoters, but I am here to say that the words one speaks against others that do not have your same views can come across as hateful and pushes the unsaved farther from the Christian faith. Name calling will not win souls.

Giving excuses to substantiate hateful speech and comments do not hold water when compared to the Word of God. Calling unsaved people names will destroy any evangelistic opportunities that may come their way. God is aware of what these people believe. Please don’t play God, as if you know best. Anything you do that does not match up with the plumb line in how Jesus has commanded us to live is not godly. There are other ways to change people’s hearts.

Most recently, I read a fellow Christian’s post to a news article in response to the Rev. Al Sharpton coming to Richmond to speak to Virginia Union University students. The fellow Christian posted Matthew 7:15, “Beware of False Prophets.” Someone pushed back with a disparaging remark against Christians only for the Christian to post a disparaging remark back to most likely an unsaved person. Folks, we cannot be speaking like this to people. Proclaiming Scripture and then telling someone to do something that is vile is destroying evangelical opportunity to bring people to Christ. These types of words destroy opportunities and will only close doors to spiritual dialogue which could possibility lead another to Christ.

If Christian people want to take a stand for justice for the unborn and other atrocities, they can do it without hate filled comments of name calling and profanities. Calling an act evil is not name calling. As Christians, we should not get ourselves caught up in the evilness of the world. This is exactly what Satan wants us to be doing. Satan relished in the fact that Christian’s are telling others off with profanities and hurtful responses. Satan is the author of confusion and lies. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it in full.” 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Christians, we need to be on our knees praying for the lost, our leaders (regardless of political party), and for the unborn. The war we fight is not a physical war but a spiritual war. We need to practice our faith in love and stop vomiting hatred towards others. We need to put on the whole armor of God as mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-18. God will not honor our disobedience which can separate us from a full relationship with Christ. Before we attempt to pull the small speck from another’s eye, we need to look in the mirror and remove the large plank from our own eye (cf. Matthew 7:5). If we want to make a difference for the gospel, then we need to have love for one another and for our neighbor. Racism and hatred come from one source, and that is from Satan. Love comes from one source, and that is God and His Loving Son, Jesus Christ. We have a choice. I choose love. What do you choose?

Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Copyright © February 8, 2019. The Lantern & Shield Times, A Division of Marketplace Evangelism Ministries Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Ugliness of Christian Politics

Most recently, our beloved Commonwealth of Virginia has experienced political controversy of our Democratic Governor, Dr. Ralph Northam, who just endorsed the most aggressive late-term abortion bill. This bill was defeated, but the fact that a Pediatric Neurologist, who is also the Governor of Virginia, is not sitting well with Christians on both the Republican and Democratic sides.

Our Governor proclaims to be a man of faith, a Christian, and a member of a Baptist church. It is concerning that man who proclaims to be a Follower of Jesus Christ then endorses an aggressive abortion bill. Most recently, while being interviewed on WTOP, Northam said, “When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician, by the way…And it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that’s non-viable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” This statement enraged both Christian Democrats and Republicans.

Just yesterday, a racist picture, supposedly of him, from his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School Yearbook, showed two people, one in a KKK hood and robe and the other black-faced, standing holding beer cans. The Governor apologized for the racist picture, and then today he is denying that he was in the picture at all. The picture was located on his yearbook page under his name. Then the Governor admitted that same year, he dressed up like Michael Jackson and put black shoe polish on his face for a dance contest in Texas. The Governor was very apologetic, but many Democrat’s and well as Republican’s have asked him to step down. The Governor states that he will not step down. Racism and the Jim Crow era slurs have no place in society. This shows a heart condition that does not match a Christian walk.

Many took to Facebook and Twitter. Professing Christian’s posted slurs towards Democrats like, “DEMONcrats” or “Democrats were acting like Demons.” Hateful, hurting, words appear to roll off many lips and yet there seems to be no remorse for what is said.

We at The Lantern & Shield do not condone abortion or racism. Although we are all conservative in our beliefs and our politics, it is troubling to us to see how professing Christians seem to find it very easy to say hateful and hurting words just to substantiate their positions in politics. We believe that Christians can take a stand for what they believe in but do it with love. Not everyone who states they are Christian are truly Christians. Approximately 79% of American’s identify with Christianity, but that does not make them a true Christian.

Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than this.”

If you want to make a difference for the gospel and in the name of Jesus, don’t call Democrats Demons and Demon-crats. It really is very offensive and it appears that people who do this have hate in their hearts. We are to love the sinner but hate the sin. How can you expect people to come to Christ when you just basically cursed them by calling them a demon?

The Word of God also says that we are not to judge others. It’s interesting that some people are so politically inclined to crucify another Christian for their difference of opinion than to try to reason with them by having a loving conversation with them. Matthew 7:5 says, “You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

I have many Democrat friends who do not support this bill. They are loving people and would give the coats off their back to help anyone. Not every person who identifies with the Democratic Party are baby killers or racists. I have known Republicans that believe that it’s okay to have an abortion. Don’t assume that just because someone mostly identifies with one party or the other believe in everything their party supports.

My point in this piece is that if you proclaim to be a true Christian, your life will exhibit love and not hate. We should be living our lives in a way that promotes love and the advancement of the gospel to the lost in our communities, state, and nation.

When people attack us, we should respond the way that Paul teaches us in Romans 12:20, “On the contrary, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap hot coals on his head.” Respond in love. They most likely will expect a hateful response, but respond with the love of Christ in your hearts.

We must also pray for our enemies as well as those who come against our faith. We do not like this recent abortion bill, which our Governor has supported and endorsed. But we must as Christian’s pray for Governor Northam, that God will change his heart, and that decisions will be made for the glorification of God’s will.

If you have participated in hateful words against others, God said that you must ask forgiveness and repent. By continuing these types of behaviors, this can separate you in your relationship with Jesus Christ. Sin will separate us from God. John 9:31 says, “We know that God listens to the godly person who does His will.”

Copyright © February 2, 2019. The Lantern & Shield Times, A Division of Marketplace Evangelism Ministries Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Spheres and Stages of Discipleship

Introduction

New converts to Christianity are not being taught properly in how to become disciples. When they come to Christ, many are left alone to learn the ways of the Lord and what God expects from his followers. The purpose of this paper is to summarize the five stages and four spheres of discipleship. I will identify what spheres relate to the centrality of Christ based on Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross. I will conclude the paper with a summary of what it means to be walking and submitting to Jesus Christ.

The Five Stages of Discipleship

The “Five Stages of Discipleship” is a path of progress carrying the mentee into the direction of spiritual maturity. Stage One: Spiritually Dead, describes a person as defined by Ephesians 2:1-5. According to Putman et al., “these people are dead in their transgressions and sins.”[1] Putman et al. also wrote, “People in this stage have not yet accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. They may reject God, they may be seeking God, they may call themselves spiritual, they may even claim to know God or call themselves Christians, but there is no true fruit in their lives. They may claim to know Jesus, but they do not have the Holy Spirit living in them.”[2] For the disciple to help these people, they must reach out in love and create honest friendships. We are to answer their questions and help them come to an understanding of their unbelief in love and prayer.

Stage Two: Infant, describes people who are new in Christ. Putman et al. referenced in Peter 2:2-3, as “newborn babies craving spiritual milk so they can grow in their salvation.  People in this stage are spiritually alive by deciding to follow Christ, but unfortunately, this is as far as they have gotten in their spiritual walk.”[3] According to Putman et al., “The key concept is that infants don’t know much. They don’t understand yet what it means to follow Jesus. They aren’t aware of the ways in which they need to change.”[4]

Stage Three: Child, describes people who are growing through the leadership of their pastor or teacher. Putman et al. states, “they are beginning to grow in relationships with other Christians as well. They are beginning to apply God’s Word in their lives and are walking with other growing disciples in their spiritual journey.”[5] In contrast, a child may have been a Christian for many years or can be a person who recently came to Christ. The key concept is Christ needs to be taught to people in this stage, to trust God and be obedient to him. According to Putman et al., “They need to learn to trust God in obedience, doing what the Word says rather than what their feelings tell them to do. As they grow, their lives will become more and more about God. They will learn to do the right things for the right reasons. And they will learn what it means to have a servant’s heart, rather than one that is self-centered.”[6]

Stage Four: Young Adult, emphasizes John 2:13-14, which describes people who are spiritually young adults. This stage does not mean literally that they are young adults, but could encompass any age range and the spiritual maturity of the person. Young adults are involved in ministry to others and are grounded in the Word of God. They are Christ centered in their thinking and actions. They put others first as they attempt to carry out the Great Commission. According to Putman et al., “They need deep, ongoing relationships with people who offer encouragement and accountability. They also need help in determining their gifts.”[7]

Stage Five: Parent is the highest goal and stage to achieve. In this stage, the Christian is now considered a teaching disciple. Spiritually mature people make disciples and are strong in Jesus Christ. They have grown to the point that they can now teach others how to be disciples.

The Four Spheres of Discipleship

There are four spheres of Discipleship. The first sphere is the most important sphere as it is the Centrality of a Relationship with God. Putman et al. referenced the first two chapters of Ephesians as the support for this sphere, which is our relationship with God. This is the hub that holds it all together and unites all the spheres together. Without having a personal relationship with Jesus, all the other spheres are in vain. Putman et al. emphasize the head, heart, and hands in three questions. Does the person who is being discipled have a personal relationship with Christ? Has his or her heart been changed? Does his or her life have evidence of change? Are these people willing to go where Christ is leading them?

The second sphere is Relationships within the Family of God, the Church. Putman et al wrote, “Does the person I am discipling know what the Bible teaches about the church and the importance of his or her relationships with other believers? Are they growing in their love for others in the body of Christ? Are they using their skills to minister to others?”[8]

The third sphere is Relationships at Home. This third sphere deals with the relationship of the family and how we can minister to our own families. Paul addresses this in Ephesians 5 and 6. Paul discusses how the husband is to lead his wife and love her, how a wife should respect her husband, how parents are to raise their children, and how children are to obey their parents.[9]

The last sphere is Relationships with the World. As Putman et al. suggests, Paul addresses how believers are to act in the world. We are to interact with unbelievers in love by living our lives like Christ. We are to be missionaries within our own towns and cities. Putman et al wrote, “He teaches disciples to be ethical and consistent and to live in such a way that even if someone does accuse them of doing wrong, the unbelievers will see their good deeds and glorify God.”[10]

What Stage of Discipleship am I in?

The stage of discipleship that I am currently in is a hybrid between a Young Adult and a Parent. I feel a call of God that I just cannot shake. I go to bed thinking about the Lord and I wake up thinking about the Lord. As Putman, et al. had mentioned John 2:13-14, I feel that I have overcome the Evil One and the Word of God does abide in me. I have seen real change in my life, my heart, and my speech. I am involved in ministering to others and have a zeal, energy, and joy as I serve Jesus through my ministry. I also believe that I am in the Parent Stage. I seek to make disciples and mentor those who are in process of growing in Christ.

Sphere Relating to the Centrality of Christ

The main sphere relating to the centrality of Christ would be the first sphere, The Centrality of a Relationship with God. This is the hinge pin that holds all the spheres together. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross suggests that disciples will recognize their cross in communion with Christ when they begin to follow the suffering Lord.[11]  Bonhoeffer wrote, “Thus, suffering becomes the identifying mark of a follower of Christ. The disciple is not above the teacher. Discipleship is passio passive (passive suffering), having to suffer. That is why Luther could count suffering among the marks of the true church.”[12] Bonhoeffer mentions the Augsburg Confession. He wrote, “Those who do not want to take up their cross, who do not want to give their lives in suffering and being rejected by people, lose their community with Christ. They are not disciples. But those who lose their lives in discipleship, in bearing the cross, will find life again in following the community of the cross with Christ. The opposite of discipleship is being ashamed of Christ, being ashamed of the cross, being scandalized by the cross.”[13] Without Christ in the center, there is no discipleship.

What Does It Mean to be in Submission to Christ?

A Christian who is in full submission to Christ is a person who loves God will all their heart, soul, and mind. Bonhoeffer wrote, “Everyone enters discipleship alone, but no one remains alone in discipleship. … The promise for those who follow Christ is that they will become members of the community of the cross, they will be people of the mediator, people under the cross.”[14] By submitting to Christ, one is accepting the fact that he or she must bear their own cross alone, and yet in community with other followers of Christ. He or she is responsible for their own salvation and walk with Christ. No one can do it for you.

According to Rod Dempsey, “The church exists to spread the gospel and develop the believer to the point where they become missionaries of the movement.”[15] What is the goal of a missionary? According to Dave Earley, “It is to help people be saved. Yes, they may serve them, feed them, clothe them, doctor them, and/or teach them; but it all is with greater purpose of helping them be saved.”[16] Being in submission to Christ is going all in for him. Not only are we to love God with all our hearts, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves as in Matt. 22:36-40. We are then to apply the Great Commission as in Matt. 28:16-20. When we place other’s needs above our own and can also share our faith, then that is what it means to be a disciple of Christ. That is when we are in submission to Christ. Don Howell wrote that disciples are leaders in training. Howell wrote, “Greatness in God’s kingdom consists in imitating the Son of man who came not to be served, but to serve.”[17] That is what we all should strive to do.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the five stages and four spheres of discipleship were described and discussed. The centrality of Christ was discussed using Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross. I discovered I am a hybrid of Young Adult and Parent in the Discipleship process. I have shown what it takes to be in submission to Christ. It is my hope that I will be able to help new converts who come to Christ to become strong in their walk with the Lord through mentoring and setting an example of my own life to them. This study has moved me and I have come to realize my full potential in making disciples who make disciples.

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Howell, Jr., Don N. Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Sproul, R C. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version. Edited by R C Sproul. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2015.

Notes:

[1] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013) 61.

[2] Putman, DiscipleShift, 61.

[3] Putman, DiscipleShift, 63.

[4] Putman, DiscipleShift, 64.

[5] Putman, DiscipleShift, 65.

[6] Putman, DiscipleShift, 67.

[7] Putman, DiscipleShift, 69.

[8] Putman, DiscipleShift, 87.

[9] Putman, DiscipleShift, 87.

[10] Putman, DiscipleShift, 89.

[11] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4 (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2003) 89.

[12] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 89.

[13] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 89.

[14] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 99.

[15] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013) 42.

[16] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 102.

[17] Don N. Howell, Jr., Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003), 189.

Submitted to Dr. Morris Baker In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of DSMN500-D03 Discipleship Ministries, Liberty University School of Divinity, April 15, 2018. This paper is the property of Joseph T.Lee and may not be copied or republished without permission. Copyright © April 16, 2018. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Knowing God

Many people continue to ask, “How can I truly know God?” One of the devotionals that I recommend is Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God Day-By-Day.” This devotional is easy to understand and is written for a layperson. I have quoted some of his devotional in this forum in order to share with you how easy it is to have a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Scriptures:

John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Philippians 3:8-10, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

According to Henry and Richard Blackaby, “Knowing God through experience is much different than knowing about God through a theological textbook. According to the Bible, you cannot say that you know Him unless you have experienced Him.”[1] In order to experience God, one must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, His one and only Son, whom He allowed to be sacrificed for the redemption of our sins. Blackaby wrote, “Biblical knowledge always involves experience.”[2] Without the experience of knowing God, one is missing out on the love that only Christ can bring. Blackaby wrote, “Jesus prayed that you would experience the depth and width and height of His love and that you would enjoy God’s full and unending love in the day-to-day experiences of life.”[3] Therefore, if there are any biblical truths that you are not experiencing, ask God to bring it into your everyday experience.[4] God will bless you with those experiences once you commit yourself and make the changes that need to be made in order for you to experience the fullness of God.

Bibliography

Blackaby, Henry, and Richard Blackaby. Experiencing God Day-By-Day: The Devotional and Journal. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1997.

The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Where Are the Men of Honor?

Where Are the Men of Honor?

My heart is troubled as I have learned of a good friend whose husband left her. For what reason? Maybe he thought a young lady might be interested in him? Maybe he thought that his wife was not good enough for him anymore? Maybe he is going through some mid-life crisis? He calls himself a Christian and yet he is not acting like a Christian. He claims he loves God and yet he does not love his neighbor, his wife. And yet we see this same type of thing happening across America because Christians are not grounded in the Word of God and are caving into liberal and political correctness. The Bible is not being taught in many churches and our nation is quickly losing pastors with not enough replacements in sight. Welcome to our non-Christian nation thanks to the politically correct and the removal of prayer in our schools. We must get back to sound Biblical teaching in our churches. It’s not okay to just pick up and leave your wife, especially if she did not do anything to warrant such behavior. Where have the true men of honor gone? Where are the men who made a vow like this? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ’till death us do part.

A man that leaves his wife to cleave to another is disgusting! He loved her in the beginning. What changed? Oh, you must have fallen out of love! Oh, that’s a great excuse! Maybe the problem is YOU! Maybe you are NOT a man of HONOR! Maybe you are a VOW breaker! I don’t know, but I do know this. You will have to answer for your sin against your wife! You must answer for your sin against God. I am angry about this because a man who takes a vow to love his wife and then just picks up and leaves is NOT a man of honor!

So, exactly what is love? According to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV), “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Also, look at Romans 12:9-13 (ESV), “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

To say that you love someone means that you want the best for that person. Love is not always a warm, fuzzy, feeling. Love is not sex. Love is wanting the best for someone. It is placing that person before yourself, even if it means that you must make sacrifices for yourself. Love is a commitment! Men, if you are leaving your wives for what you think is better, you are acting like fools! If you think that young woman is really interested in your older version of yourself, you are sadly mistaken. You are throwing away your life and destroying your family while doing it! Those younger women that you are trying to hook up with are not interested in a long-term relationship with an old man like you! Sorry but the deceiver has led you astray! The facts are that if another woman will cause you to break your vow with your wife, she will cause another man to break his vow with his wife. Where are her morals to break up a home? Where are your morals to do the same? It’s not too late. You can turn back and ask forgiveness. You can come back to your wife and ask God to forgive you. Be the man of Honor that we all hope that you will be! Stay with your wife, love your children, and be the man that God has called you to be!

Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © January 8, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Imagining John Lennon’s Nightmare

Christmas is over, and that means that New Year’s Eve is just around the corner.  I’m not really into New Year’s Eve anymore.  I used to enjoy it, but no longer.  It’s not because I’m getting older, but because it has become a holiday for promoting Secular Humanism.  It’s not the parties and drunkenness that makes New Year’s Eve a decidedly humanistic holiday.  Heaven knows that there’s always a party happening somewhere—and there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a good time every now and then.  The problem is that the secular media has made John Lennon’s anthem “Imagine” the mandatory song announcing the beginning of the new year, and that the new year should embrace the dream of Secular Humanism. This is observable since over the last couple of decades one of the first songs everyone sings after midnight—if not the very first song sung—is no longer “Auld Lang Syne” (aka: “As Time Goes By”) but Lennon’s “Imagine.” If you actually listen to and think about what the song actually says, then you will also realize that if what Lennon imagined is ever achieved that the world will become a living nightmare for devote Christians everywhere.

The first line of the song simply asks us to “Imagine there’s no heaven.”  Lennon wasn’t asking us to imagine that there’s no galaxy, instead he was asking us to imagine that the place where God dwells no longer exists.  In other words, he wanted everyone everywhere to stop believing in God. And instead of a place called Heaven, he wanted us to envision that above us is “only sky.” Moreover, he believed that all we really needed to do in order realize his utopia of a godless universe was to simply begin imagining that God no longer exists. It is clear that envisioning life without God is what Lennon had in mind since he also asked us to imagine that Hell wasn’t real as well. As we all know, Hell is the domain where God eternally relegates all that rejected him during their earthly lives. And having imagined that God, Heaven, and Hell no longer exist, Lennon wanted us to imagine all humanity “living only for today.”  Don’t worry about what God promised would occur in the future, don’t even worry about the future, just live for the moment, that is what John Lennon hoped everyone would imagine.

Before unpacking the rest of the song, we should be reminded that the Lord Jesus Christ was committed to promoting the reality of Heaven.  His entire message could be summarized in his proclamation: “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4.17).  Moreover, while training his followers on how to pray, he first wanted us to understand that Heaven is where God is, praying that “Our Father who is in Heaven, holy be your name” (Matt 6.9ff). The Lord also taught us that our hopes and prayers should always start with “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” While the Lord exhorted us to faithfully imagine and look forward to a world in complete submission to the will of our heavenly Father, Lennon wanted us to imagine God doesn’t exist, that we are by ourselves, that we are accountable to no one; consequently, we are living only for today, existing only for the moment. There is no reconciling what John Lennon wanted everyone to imagine and what Jesus stated is true now, as well as what will occur in the future. They are diametrically opposed to each other; consequently, they are mutually exclusive. You can’t have both; you can only have one at the sacrifice of the other—so much for harmonious diversity between what Lennon wanted and what Jesus will accomplish.

To make his point even more polarizing, Lennon exhorted us to imagine there is no “religion.” Now I also wish that there weren’t so many false religions throughout the world. But that is not what Lennon wished for; instead he wished that there was no religion at all. Regardless of how you feel about some religions, the vast majority of them essentially teach us one fundamental truth, which is that God exists and that we are accountable to Him. Say what you will about some of their specific teachings; nevertheless, our world is better off because of this essential truth that virtually all religions promote. And it is this foundational truth that Lennon wanted everyone to imagine doesn’t exist.

What is most disturbing about Lennon’s imagination is that he believed that humanity could live “life in peace” if everyone else would stop believing in their religions, which requires that Christians stop believing in Heaven, stop believing in God, and stop following the Lord Jesus Christ.  As a matter of fact, for Lennon it is we who believe in the kingdom of Heaven that are the ones who prevent world peace and global harmony from being achieved.  Lennon’s chorus asserts precisely this, suggesting that “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”  Did you get that?  Lennon believed that it is we who worship God and believe in Heaven that are the ones who prevent the rest of the world from living in global unity. Lennon thought that in order for world harmony to be experienced Christians are the ones that need to stop believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he clearly taught about God, himself, and sinful humanity. It is we, therefore, who have to abandon Jesus and join all Secular Humanists so that the world can experience global tranquility.  And Lennon extended this satanic invitation through a simply little ditty that Rolling Stone once listed as the 3rd greatest song of all time.

Now that I am older I have become a light sleeper, and one of the things that easily wakes me are nightmares. I used to sleep so hard that I couldn’t remember any of my dreams—good or bad, but those days are gone, and now I am easily awaken by an occasional nightmare. John Lennon’s song “Imagine” inspires people to believe in a worldview that in reality is a hellish nightmare rather than a dream. And as more and more people uncritically embrace his vision, then the gospel will become increasingly offensive to them. Lennon’s song “Imagine” is for Secular Humanists what “Just As I AM” is for the church. This New Year’s Eve take a moment and watch how many people sing along with Lennon’s hope for the world. Then think about what the world will be like if it starts accepting and acting upon Lennon’s imagination. What if the secular world actually begins to view Christians as “bitter clingers,” as hateful people who refuse to relinquish to their archaic Bibles, their mythical religion, and their dead Jesus?  What if they begin to view us as the ones that are the real impediments to their hope for world harmony? You may find that hard to imagine, but I don’t, not for a moment. The fact that the song gets any airplay at all is a bad omen. Once more and more people start believing that Christianity is what keeps humanity from experiencing global tranquility, then devote followers in the Lord Jesus Christ will find themselves in a nightmare that is the logical endgame of Secular Humanism, which will be hell on Earth for everyone.

Monte Shanks, Copyright © December 27, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

His Unspeakable Gift

We are in the amazing season of Christmas; celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. The creator of all, the very Son of God took off His royal robes and stepped from the throne room of Heaven into the womb of a peasant girl. Instead of a myriad of the Heavenly Hosts, His birth was witnessed by lowly animals in a borrowed stable. He was delivered into the calloused hands of a carpenter and placed in a rough manger of hay. He chose to go from His place of unlimited glory and power to the pain and poverty of man. Stepping from the infinite to the finite; the Lamb of God clothed Himself in human flesh and began the painful path to the cross where the perfect Son of God would become sin for me; trading His purity and righteousness for my filthy, sinful rags so that I would never have to pay my own sin debt. The agony of the cross cast an ominous shadow over the manger as the Christ child lay sleeping that first Christmas night. His gift of life is offered to kings and beggars alike; calling us to humbly turn our hearts in wonder and thanksgiving toward the star over Bethlehem as we kneel before our Savior and Lord; born to be crucified so that we may have eternal life. How can we do anything but fall to our knees in humble praise and worship; thanking Him for His unspeakable gift?

Pamela Lee Amick,Copyright © December 25, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Grace Through Faith

I once knew of a man who stated he was looking for God but he could never seem to find Him. He struggled with how to find God and he wanted what others had, he just could not seem to find it. The reason he could not find God was because he was dead in his trespasses and his transgressions. He thought that he had to find God through works. Let’s see what Paul said about that.

If we read Ephesians 2:1-10, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

We cannot save ourselves. We cannot know God without first knowing His Son, Jesus Christ. It is through the loving GRACE of Jesus that we can have a relationship with God. Look at verse 5, “by grace you have been saved.” Not by our works.

The natural state of all human beings is spiritual death. This condition is universal; both for Gentiles (v2) and Jews (v3). The natural state of all humans is that we walk in active rebellion against God. It is because of God’s great love towards His followers in which we have forgiveness only found through Jesus. Sinners who are apart from Christ are in a hopeless condition. Only faith, not works can bring acceptance with God. It is only when the sinner recognizes that he cannot save himself is when he will hopefully believe in Jesus and turn his heart and mind over to Christ. Once he or she surrenders their life to Christ, that is when grace is granted and a relationship begins with God through Christ. In verse 8, “For by grace you have been saved through grace. And this is not by your own doing; it is the gift of God.” It is through Jesus Christ that this relationship begins.

© Copyright December 24, 2017. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.