Is Life Pain?

2.29.16Is Life Pain
 
The story goes like this:
 
While in Jerusalem, Jesus comes across a man who has been invalid for 38 years. The man is lying next to a special pool, the water of which is supposedly touched by an angel on occasion. When this happens, the first person in magically gets healed. (Hey, people have believed in weirder things.)

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Faithful Friends

2.23.16FaithfulFriends
 
Our household consists of myself and my wife, four kids (with one on the way), two and a half jobs, a degree to finish up and a beta fish. All of these factors add up to equal a tight budget and a tight schedule. My wife and I have to go out of our way in order to make time for family events. Nothing big: a trip to the mall, dinner at Pizza Ranch, or gathering around to play a board game. We have to force this issue. If we didn’t, we would just be people co-existing in a house together, which is not how I want my family to be defined.


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Discipleship as Following

Let’s take a closer look at spiritual growth as following Jesus. Jesus called a number of His first disciples with the invitation to follow Him (Matthew 4:19, 16:24). Following means a dynamic relationship, one that included movement. These disciples physically followed Jesus around. Faith formation happened along the way rather than while sitting aside, like in a classroom setting. Jesus taught His disciples from everyday life situations, helping them grow in living situations that emerged as they lived life together. Discipleship, as I mentioned a couple of blogs ago, was an apprenticeship for a new way of living.

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Testing…Testing…

Testing2.16.16
 
Testing comes in many forms.  For kids, tests look like spelling words and math problems. For parents, tests come in the form of dealing with a cranky kid, or a stubborn attitude.  It’s trying to keep your cool as the wheels fall off the wagon.    Two different worlds, two different types of testing.
 

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Spiritual Growth as Making Disciples

Growing spiritually means growing as disciples. It also means growing in making disciples. When Jesus returned to heaven, He charged His followers in what we call “The Great Commission.” Matthew 28:19-20 records this commissioning, where Jesus said to His followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 
 
Making disciples, then, is based on the missional element of the church going out into the wider communities, interacting with others, and forming relationships. Other people, through baptism, are invited into the identity of the Trinity. Discipleship includes sharing, witness, and instruction, as new people are taught to live in obedience to Jesus’ way of life. Then, notice, that it is Jesus’ presence in the Holy Spirit that empowers this going, baptizing, and teaching.

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Spiritual Growth as Being Disciples

Another biblical way to think about growing spiritually is discipleship. A disciple is “a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.” Those who choose to follow Jesus are called “disciples.” Disciples spend time with their teacher. They watch how he or she behaves, lives, acts. They listen to his or her words and teachings. They try to mimic his or her life in their own.
 
Originally, Jesus’ disciples were called “members of The Way.” (Check it out in Acts 18:26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22.) Think about that! Being a Christian wasn’t just about believing in Jesus–it wasn’t mainly about what you said you believed. It was a way of life! Other people could tell that those who claimed Jesus had a different kind of life. They lived differently–by what they did, how they talked, where they went.

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Going to the Source

PainChart2.1.16
 
2 Kings 4:8-37 relates an interesting story about the prophet Elisha.  Most stories about Elisha are interesting, but they are also hard to understand.  There is the one where he curses some youths and they are mauled by a bear (2 Kings 2:23-25), he makes an ax head float (6:1-7), he creates an antidote for a pot of poisoned stew (2 Kings 4:42-44) and most weird of all, a dead man comes back to life when he touches Elisha’s buried bones (2 Kings 13: 20-21)! 
 
Basically, we all need to go back and read through 2 Kings.  It is a wonderfully strange collection of stories about a powerful man of God who prompts us to ask important questions.

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Spiritual Growth, an Organic Idea

vineyard1.31.16
 
Spiritual growth, in Scripture, is sometimes explained in organic terms. Within the next couple of weeks, I will need to go out and prune the apple tree in our back yard. An apple tree can be a great image to understanding the biblical image of spiritual growth as bearing fruit. Mature plants bear fruit. Jesus sets up this image in John 15 in terms of the vine and branches. When His followers remain in His love, they are able to “bear much fruit” (John 15:5). Paul also draws upon this image in Colossians 1:10, linking bearing fruit with doing good work and gaining godly knowledge: “you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” In 2 Corinthians9:10, Paul uses the language of an increase in “the harvest of your righteousness.”

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Putting on the New

1.27.16puttingonthenew
 
My wife and I have four kids.  Our youngest two, Ezra and Silas, are 4 and 2 respectively.  If you ever see them you may notice that they both parade around in clothes that don’t quite fit.  We have a surplus of clothing perfect for a standard 3 year old, so when it comes to dressing them, they receive a mix of age appropriate items and those made for a kid in between them. My wife tries to avoid such situations, but I am much more lax about the whole thing.  It is typical to see them in a shirt that looks fine but pants that are constantly sliding down.  Ezra looks especially weird in his fashionable cowboy boots and high water pants.  A lot of times they just wear nothing.

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Spiritual Growth according to Paul

spiritualgrowth1.26.16

I continue to explore spiritual growth in the Bible in this blog, and this time I’m looking at Paul’s writings in the Bible (Paul’s writings include Romans through Philemon).
 
For Paul, spiritual growth means a growing 

away from the way people are, and growing toward becoming more like Jesus. Away from 

means becoming less like the way the rest of the world operates. In Romans 12:2, Paul speaks of this growth as transformation: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” God’s grace has appeared, and, as it says in Titus 2:12, it “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

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