Remember Match Sprint Cycling in the Olympic Games? Two cyclists ready their bikes to speed the oval. But they first eye each other to see when the opponent makes the break for a sprint to the end.
Sharing discipleship with other Christians can be like Match Sprint Cycling. We keep our eyes on each other instead of both focusing on Jesus. We wonder what our fellow believer does instead of what Jesus wants to do through each of us. We strain to beat our brother instead of working with him to defeat Satan. We excel in competing with fellow Christians instead of helping them be their best as disciples.
All discipleship is complementary, not competitive. Competition is only within self, working to improve the giftedness Jesus bestowed in us. Being complementary, we’re willing to help another improve his giftedness. Harder than that, we’re willing to ask help in developing ours.
We’re in the kingdom together against all satanic machinations. Whatever we can do to conquer him; or whatever we can do to help others conquer him, we shall. Since even small victories in others make our work for Jesus easier, we pray for others. Whatever they can do that we can’t, we pray they’ll exceed our expectations! We’re in a supplementary, supportive kingdom of forgiven sinners each seeking to become improving saints and willing to help others achieve it sooner and better!
God’s expectations of Christians, and our declarations as Christian, become indivisible in This Is What We Are.
Redwoods once grew in vast California forests 500 miles long and 30 miles wide. God’s giant sentinels Coastal Redwoods grew 300 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter. Sequoia’s 200-250 feet tall and 25 feet in diameter.
A 1914 St. Louis newspaper recorded the last of the passenger pigeons. In 1831 John Audubon and others estimated their number in the billions. Some flights took 10 hours to pass a particular place. Legends and Lore of Southern Illinois, 385
Creatures and features in creation change. To say nothing of businesses, alliances, interests and relationships.
But God’s word DOES NOT change, so God’s people DARE NOT!
When Israel and his 70 people came to Egypt at Pharaoh’s invitation, they had been shepherds for 200 years over four generations. However, though being shepherds identified their God-given occupation, it didn’t smooth their entrance into Egypt. How should they respond? Joseph settled the question, as Genesis 46:31-47:6 reveal: they should be honest, tell their REAL occupation and ask for residence in Goshen, land perfect for pasturage.
In other words, tell Pharaoh, “This is what we are. This is what God has given us to be.”
Some 1300 years later, and after erecting in Babylon a 90 foot high statue of a favorite god, Nebuchadnezzar commanded all his subjects to bow before it. Astrologers, jealous of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, accused them of refusing to bow.
When brought before the king, and questioned, they replied: first, it was true they hadn’t bowed; second, they offered no apology for refusing; third, the Living God they served wouldn’t allow them to bow; fourth, if the king threw them into the blazing furnace, their God could protect them; fifth, whether he did or not, they weren’t going to bow before that 90 foot statue. That wasn’t what they were. They yielded allegiance only to the Living God. In other words, “This is what we are” Daniel 3. End Part I
In America today, which has an animosity towards Jesus that we as seniors couldn’t have imagined when we were students in Bible College. This writer remembers Professor Marion Henderson warning us that America might not always be a Christian nation. What he envisioned we now experience.
Nevertheless, when unbelievers or seekers ask us: in a society as diverse as ours, of so many religions, with so many religious leaders satisfying so many people, do we really believe that Jesus is the ONLY answer, not merely one of MANY.
YES. He is God’s Only Son our Only Answer. And on and on!
We’ll stay in America, or go abroad, to bear with Jesus the disgrace he bore by dying on the cross. Though the Jews considered it an affront to their religion and Gentiles an insult to their reason. Christians understand and experience it as the wisdom of God and the basis of our righteousness I Corinthians 1:30, Hebrews 13:11-14.
Wherever God sends us; wherever we may find ourselves, let us willingly bear the disgrace of Jesus since it opens God’s forgiveness to us. Indeed, may we, with the apostle, never boast except in “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” Galatians 6:14.
However, we’ll go nowhere, with anyone, anytime, believing or doing anything that causes us to BRING SHAME to Jesus, the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us Galatians 2:20. Fini
The apostles shared in Christ’s suffering through their own. They also participated in the suffering of other Christians. In Revelation 1:9 the apostle wrote, “I John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus....”
Which encapsulates the essence of discipleship, even in a depraved culture. We’re in it together as Christian believers. We’re fellow-heirs of God’s historic and eternal kingdom. We pay the price of serving in a sybaritic age devoted to ego-driven behavior. And we persevere in our calling whatever the cost imposed.
Therefore, cowards won’t apply to join us, for they won’t start. And weaklings need not apply, for they won’t continue. When Simon Peter applied, he found himself on the run from Herod. Paul applied and found himself in jail by Jewish opposition. But neither blinked when in trouble or danger because their Lord had stared down, then trampled to dust, all satanic temptation and intimidation. End Part IV
The adversities Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows experienced in England, 1946-1947, paled before apostolic suffering. Regularly hounded out of synagogue and town for preaching Christ, they left, walked to the next town, entered the synagogue and preached Christ. They could be run from town to town for preaching Christ but they couldn’t be stopped from preaching Christ wherever they went.
They learned from Jesus. For wherever Jesus went, he always stood FOR God against whatever opposed God. He never stood in the middle of the road on any subject, trying to find common ground for all. It was his Way or the Highway that led to Perdition! He never thought that embracing truth was negotiable.
In Revelation 2-3 he had harsh words for any church compromising his truth. And he threatened to upchuck one church—Laodicea—the men “in the middle”—who prided themselves on being everything to everyone. End Part III
In the Reader’s Digest biographical series, 70 Most Unforgettable Characters, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote about Edward Sheldon, a person with whom she shared sympathy for men “in the middle”. That is, those of moderate convictions. Who sought a middle ground for differences. Who neither praised nor condemned behavior and decisions. Who didn’t believe in harshly judging self. 37-38
With no apology to anyone who believes that, such individuals couldn‘t possibly be followers of Jesus. For the person he was toughest with was HIMSELF, perfectly practicing life-long self-denial. Then demanded self-denial for every believer. He knew that some teachers would stimulate other people’s egos and passions. But he wanted his people to control their own as an example to others to control theirs.
Jesus also knew the degree of difficulty in serving him would fluctuate with circumstances. Between October 1946 and March 1947, Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows held revivals across the British Isles. Post WWII Britain still rationed food. People were often unwashed and wore tatters for clothing. In the coldest winter in 100 years everyone slept with clothes on—and still suffered from the plummeting temperatures. In Wales their diet consisted of tomatoes stuffed with bread. (And that was better than people of Leningrad in 1941-1942—their bread had very little flour and very much sawdust.)
The church buildings the team preached in were cold and drafty and were sometimes filled with FOG so thick the preachers couldn’t see the balcony. Still, they persevered through it all because Christ called them to preach him to the nations—whatever the environment, weather, diets or dress. End Part II
Note: since family health has improved, back to blogging we go.
As Leviticus 16:27 commanded, the bodies of animals sacrificed for priests and people on the Day of Atonement were burned outside the city, while the High Priest sprinkled their blood in the Holy of Holies. That’s the Old Testament basis of Hebrews 13:11-14.
In perfect fulfillment of the annually-repeated Mosaic animal sacrifice, Jesus gave himself once-for-all as the perfect sacrifice for sin, then with his blood entered the Holy of Holies, Heaven itself Hebrews 9:12. In the completion of his redemptive work, he not only forgave sin but dedicated his people to a sacred trust.
That trust remains in place generation to generation. It’s the same now as always. And God, who doesn’t change, won’t reduce it for us, however difficult it is to be a Christian in our depraved society.
The generations change, but human nature doesn’t. Cultures change their views, but God won’t change his. He still demands that his people confront society with his eternal truth in Christ. That’s why “That’s What We Are” remains the essential explanation of Christian discipleship. End Part I