Friday, July 8, 2016

Salt and Light

There are a lot of things not being done the way I think they should be done, and I want to holler and crash around and make everybody listen up and start behaving properly (my way).

Thankfully, somehow Our Father speaks through the red haze and I hear Jesus say, “You are the salt of the earth but if salt has lost its savor it is not good for anything but to be cast out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid, nor do men light a lamp and place it under a basket. Rather they put it on a lamp stand and it gives light to the whole house. Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.” (Paraphrased. Matthew 5:13-16)

Now I have been hearing this for some time and I think it’s beginning to sink in, a little. What I am realizing is that salt and light are very quiet. We need light and if it is not there, we notice that. We need salt, especially with potatoes and eggs. Still these things are quiet and don’t make a production of themselves.

Salt and light are simply what they are supposed to be. They don’t insist that others be what they are, they just are.

As a follower of Jesus, there are many things that I am supposed to be: humble, meek, merciful and loving just to name a few. But I cannot by force require anyone else to aspire and strive for these virtues. If Jesus is my Lord by the voluntary surrender of my will, then His will becomes my delight.

Salt is salty. Salt is sodium chloride and as long as it is not diluted it will always be salty. The problem arises when you put not enough salt on too many potatoes, or dilute the salt until only a little salt is mixed with too much of anything else. The same thing is true of light. On the sunniest day you can go inside and close yourself off from the light and be in the dark, but the sun is still shining bright.

My own will, especially my self-righteous religious will, is the greatest hindrance or diluting factor to my being salt and light. Hollering, crashing around and insisting that everyone else behave is the opposite of being salt and light.


Will others get what I am doing? I don’t know but that is not the point. The point is, Will I be salt and light?

Will you?

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Discipleship Course

Many years ago a young man complained that he wanted someone to disciple him but could not find a minister or anyone who would do it. I’m not sure he really wanted someone but it got me started thinking. Sometime later someone sent me a discipleship work book. I had expressed an interest in it. I found it to be full of doctrines of a specific denomination and didn’t really speak to the matters of Jesus’ teaching. At least it seemed that way to me

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says; “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

I am especially interested in that last verse. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

I have been in the Christian Church in one form or another since I was about 3 weeks old. That was a long time ago! I am fairly serious about my relationship with God. I spent 2 years and a little in Bible College. This matter of making disciples and teaching them to observe Jesus’ teaching is something I have seen very little.

Over the last several years I have been more and more aware of my own lack in this area and at the same time I have been discovering things that are helping me to become more of a disciple of Jesus.

Over the last few years I have been trying to organize what I am learning in order to share it with others so that it might be a help to them. I am sure that what I have put together will smell a lot like me, and I can only apologize for that and hope it’s not too distracting.

Therefore, I would like to offer to those who read this blog what I would call a beginning discipleship study guide.

A few people have already used this guide and say it has been helpful.

If you will email me at beginningdisciples@gmail.com and request a copy of the discipleship book, I will be happy to send you a PDF copy of the study.

There is no charge for this and I will not be sending you any other requests or advertisements. This is the one thing I have been focused on for the last few years and it is about all I have to offer.

I would only request that if you use it and find it helpful or have suggestions to make it more helpful. Please write back and let me know how I might make it better. If you don’t think it is any good, please let me know that too with your reasons. You might really be on to something.

Thank you very much 

Rick

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Someone Stole my Bicycle

Someone stole my bicycle. It was a nice bicycle and I enjoyed it very much. But I didn’t always lock it up and someone saw it sitting there and took it.

Certainly it was a sin to take the bicycle that didn’t belong to them. But, did I sin by not locking it up? I don’t think I did, but I didn’t protect my neighbor from sinning.

All of this makes me look at the whole cycle of temptation and sin.

Once when I was driving over the road, a woman came up to my truck and asked if I wanted to party. This poor woman was about as physically unattractive as I could ever imagine. Yet the only thing she could offer in exchange for money or food was sexual stimulation. I pitied her but didn’t have anything I could give, I thought. She was trapped in a lifestyle of sin that would destroy her, if someone didn’t rescue her. The question I have is. How did she get there?

How do any of us get there? Somehow I think the answer to Cain’s question is, “Yes.” As far as is possible we are each one responsible for our brothers and sisters.

Circumstances affect how we each think. We each have weaknesses that are beyond our control. Alcohol is a very plain example. Some people can have a drink of wine or a beer or two and leave it at that. Another person dare not even go where there will be access to alcohol.

In this case the scope of responsibility is made broader.

It is so pleasant to write or speak about areas where I feel I have had some success, but when it comes to areas where I have little or no success, I become very uncomfortable. This is one of those areas. 

And I wonder how willing I am to get success here.

In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul talks about meat offered to idols to illustrate how we need to be careful for our brother. I understand this to mean that I am not responsible for my brother’s weakness or for the sin that he chooses. But I am responsible for myself, and if my liberty causes him to stumble then I do have a responsibility.

Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” If my light causes another person to stumble, I need to do something about my light. I didn’t want my bike to be stolen. Using the lock and cable that I had would have made that plain. Someone may have stolen it anyway, but then my message would have been clear. “Don’t take my bike.”

Salvation is a process. I am learning faithfulness in areas I never thought of before. Making my things secure so my brother won’t be tempted to stumble is an area I believe my father wants me to learn more faithfulness.

Consider your life. Is there an area where you need to be careful to protect your brother from stumbling?


Be faithful.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Try This Exercise

Lately I have been experiencing a new discipline that I would like to share with you if you have a few minutes to read and to think.

Paul said, “…we have received grace and apostleship, for the obedience of faith among all nations for his name:” (Romans 1:5) Notice the phrase ‘for the obedience of faith.’ Have you ever heard such a thing? That phrase is repeated again in 16:26. Sometimes I have thought of that phrase as the bookends that describe everything that lies between. Another place Paul speaks of Jesus and says, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

Discipleship is the process of becoming like the one whose disciple you are. I am learning to be Jesus’ disciple and therefore I need to learn to be obedient just as he did. In Hebrews 5:8, again speaking of Jesus it says, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;” Now this is getting a little uncomfortable.

I have often wondered what that obedience meant. I went to Bible college to learn to be a minister or something. I went to church and said my prayers. Those were things men, good men with good intentions, told me to do. Some time ago I began reading God’s Word to see if He would tell me what I should do. I have mentioned before that the Beatitudes have been especially helpful to me. I have also gained significant direction and instruction from memorizing and meditating with other verses of God’s Word. In 2012 I published a little story on this blog entitled, “Tree of Life”. Since that time I have said several times, “Thanksgiving is a tree of life in the garden of your heart.”

Giving thanks to God is an act of obedience and we should learn much more faithfulness in this area. Of course we could give thanks for a good and tasty meal or a new pair of shoes. But could we, would we be just as thankful for stale bread and worn out shoes? In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” And in Ephesians 5:20 it says, “giving thanks always for all things to him who is God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Please notice the universal nature of the things we are to give thanks for; “All things”.

My sister suggested a little exercise to me a few months ago and for the last month I have been working at it. I would like to suggest it for you and would look forward to hearing how your life has been affected.

This is the exercise. Every morning write down at least 3 things that you are thankful for. Someone asked if you could write the same 3 things each day. I suppose you could but I don’t think you would keep the exercise up for more than a few days. This is an exercise. You will be stretching a muscle you haven’t used to its fullest potential.

As I have practiced this for the last month and a little, I have experienced some truly beneficial results. This exercise sets my focus on my Heavenly Father first thing. As I look for things to be thankful for, I think of little things I have taken for granted for a long time; electricity, running water, a roof over my head. As I work at being thankful for all things other scriptures come to life. With 3 flat tires on the trip from Arizona to Oregon, Romans 8:28 begins to have greater meaning. When someone sends me a message cursing me, my family and my faith, Matthew 5:11-12 becomes a comfort and encouragement. But only because I am learning to Give thanks in all things. In all things and for all things, giving thanks is an exercise in the obedience of faith, and sometimes it is difficult.
I don’t try really hard to think up new things to be thankful for. I notice things I hadn’t thought of before. And then there are the things that get in my face and the Word of God tells me this is something I should write down and sincerely give thanks.

This exercise can be a little frightening when I realize that God is building and stretching my faith by telling me to be thankful for all things. But the purpose is not to build a comfortable pleasant life for myself. The purpose is to become like Jesus as I learn to be obedient just as he did. ALWAYS remember, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful who will not suffer (allow) you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)


There are so many scriptures I could refer here but I will only say that since I have begun this exercise, in the midst of the difficulties I have experienced a growth in my peace and confidence in my Fathers great love and mercy. Therefore, I recommend it to you as we are learning to be Jesus’ disciples.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Change of Direction

For the last six and a half years I have worked to publish articles that challenge and encourage those who seek to follow Jesus. I have published 67 articles in that time. Some of those articles have been pretty lame, but I believe some of them have been worthwhile.

A large part of my hope was to stimulate conversation with my writings. I have invited comments several times in the articles that I have written. There have been 2,877 visits to my blog, from a variety of locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and I believe I remember a couple from Australia. In all of this time there have only been 11 comments. Therefore, my focus is changing.

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says;
All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

These are the words of the Risen Christ. He had utterly triumphed, overcoming sin and the grave and was therefore absolutely worthy to say,All authority has been given to me.”

It is always important that we read what is written carefully!

This command was given to the 11 disciples that were left. (ref. verse 16) It is pretty common to hear messages about the great commission preached to the whole church. This is a common practice that may be in error. As I have studied the Gospels over the years I have noticed that Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables but to his disciples he spoke plainly (Mark 4:11-12). The disciples had demonstrated a willingness and even a desire to sacrifice in order to follow Jesus. Today the only person who comes to a Bible study, having read and studied the Scripture (if indeed they are studying the Scripture), is the Paid pastor.

Jesus’ command was to disciples who had sacrificed to be with him and to learn what it was that he desired of them. His command was that as they were going they should make other disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them. His promise that went with the command is that he would be with them even to the end of the world.

Most of the churches that I have been associated with are pretty strong on, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” I have only seen one that takes the making disciples part very seriously. I have looked at some of the material that is used to do this part and it is loaded with assurance of salvation and responsibilities of church membership. But really light on, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

Over the last several years I have been very interested in this idea of discipleship; what it means and how to accomplish it. In all of this time I have experienced some of what I would call success in becoming Jesus’ disciple. I have been working during this time at creating a study guide to help others experience success as well. That is the primary reason that I have not published anything on this blog in the last month. The first 2 sections of this study are nearly complete and I have received some positive feedback from some who are using the first part.

Since I have received some positive feedback from the discipleship study and because I believe that this is where my primary focus should be, I suspect that my posts to this blog may be even less regular.


If this is a disappointment for you, if you find my articles helpful, punch the comment button and let me know. I will prayerfully consider your concerns.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

All About Me

My birthday is coming up in a few days and it made me think about something I heard someone say again recently that almost always raises my hackles a little. A lot of “Christian teachers” and therefore “Christians” like to say, “It’s not about you” when they talk about the Christian faith. I think I know what they mean, at least I hope I do. What I suspect that they mean is that you don’t get to ask for anything you want and expect to get it just because you prayed some prayer. I agree with that but that’s all of that that I agree with.

The preacher has said (several times and places in my hearing), “If you were the only sinner in the world, Jesus would have come and died for you.” But then that is a statement that is without any meaning anyway. It is just an emotional appeal to get someone “saved” or to agree with some statement and say some words. The truth is that everyone has rebelled against God and been taught to rebel from an early age, either by example or by instruction, often unintentionally. Regardless, we have all learned to value our own will and desires above God’s and to choose our own way instead of His.

Birthdays, especially for children, are truly all about the one having the birthday. As I am learning to live the life Jesus has called me to live I see that it is almost entirely all about me. I agree with Ephesians 2:8-9 which says;

For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.

This is the mantra of those who want to prove that there is nothing for us to do. It is also the evidence that many offer to show that it is all about God and not about me. Probably they never opened their Bibles when the preacher shared that verse and looked at the very next verse.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.

Do you see that last part? “That we should walk in them.” In chapter 4 there are some very personal instructions for me.

I therefore the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the calling with which you are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

These are instructions for me. This is about me! Throughout the New Testament I find specific and clear instructions directed at me personally from God telling me that it is about me.

Especially in what is called the Sermon on the Mount there are specific instructions given to me by the one I call Lord. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) “… I say to you, ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you’.” (Matthew 5:44) Jesus also says to me, “Therefore be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Someone is all cocked and ready to say, “We can’t be perfect, that’s why Jesus had to come and die for our sins.” Is God so unreasonable that he would tell us we must do something that He will not make it possible for us to do? Did Paul have some special power that is not available to me when he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)? Was Peter mistaken when he wrote, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue, through which He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, so that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of lust.” (II Peter 1:2-4)? In I John 2 you can read “my little children, I write these things to you so that you may NOT SIN…”.  Yes, I know it came after “all have sinned” and before “And if anyone sins”. The point I am making is that John is showing us that we can choose to NOT SIN.

Yes, Jesus did have to come to pay a debt of sin for each of us, and because he did God made it possible for each of us to be born of the spirit and walk in a new life that can overcome, if we choose. At this point it is ALL about me. Will I choose to live the life that Jesus has provided and has given me an example of, or will I continue to live in sin that grace may abound?

So far I still need Jesus to be my advocate with the Father because I do stumble, but I will not sin and deny that God has provided the power and the desire to overcome sin. I am working out my salvation, with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12-13)

What about you?

It really is all about you!


Saturday, February 6, 2016

I have a problem

I have a problem. It is a very serious problem. It is so serious that I honestly fear it may cause me to stop going to any “Evangelical Christian Church”. I suspect there are some people with insight that may be able to help me with my problem, if they are willing. This is not a joke or an exaggeration. I am deadly serious! It has been years since I was able to invite anyone to join me in going to my church.

As far as I am able I believe what is written in The Word of God (The Bible). There is much that I am sure I do not understand. But in my study and visiting roundabout with other believers I have seen two important areas where my understanding is in diametrical opposition to what is called “Evangelical” teaching.

Please understand, I do not wish to argue this issue. But if I am wrong I would very much appreciate being shown where I have gone astray. I long for fellowship with believers who are sincerely seeking to follow Jesus and be changed into his image. (Romans 8:29 & 2 Corinthians 3:18)

In nearly every meeting that I attend the idea is expressed or the statement is boldly made and validated that “Jesus was wholly man and wholly God” when he was living among us as a man. This naturally leads to several other ideas that follow easily. Things such as “we cannot be perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and “he was God so of course he could resist sin.”

Allow me to share what I believe and why I have come to this understanding.
In John 1:1-4 it says;

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

I need to begin by plainly saying that I believe absolutely what is said here. In the beginning Jesus, here referred to as The Word, was with God and he was God. By the word God created all things. (Ref Genesis 1:1-2:3)

But when we go further down to verse 14 something profound takes place.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth.

This is evidence of a profound change in nature, from one with God to being flesh. How complete is this change and what are the implications? Please consider a few more scriptures to see if you can at least understand how I have come to my conclusions.

Please take a look at Philippians 2:5-8

Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.

First notice in verse 6; existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, Jesus did not count equality with God as something to be grasped, therefore he (vs. 7-8) emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man…This doesn’t seem to me to need explanation especially if you compare this to Hebrews 2:14 &16-17. First Since then the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise partook of the same and then; For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but he gives help to the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like his brethren in all things so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Look at that again He had to be made like his brethren in all things. There is no question that we are not wholly god and wholly man, therefor if Jesus was made like us in all things, he must of necessity not be wholly God and wholly man. It just seems logical to me.

Of course there is the matter of Jesus living a sinless life so that he could be the perfect sacrifice for sin. Hebrews 4:15 gives us a place to begin to talk about Jesus and sin. That may be the whole point of this whole issue. According to the popular logic, Jesus had to be wholly God and wholly man to live apart from sin. If he was not wholly God he would have a sin nature like us. Well here the plot only thickens. I looked in several versions and even paraphrases of God’s word and nowhere did I find anything about “sin nature.” I don’t think it is there. (Kind of like other popular teachings that are accepted because of an inference.)

What I do find is in Hebrews 4:15-16.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

To me this is an amazing scripture and an amazing reality. This says to me that Jesus was tempted just like I am tempted and yet he did not sin. I love thinking about that because it is such an encouragement for me. But how was Jesus tempted just like me?
Let’s look in James 1:13-15 and see what it says.

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is full-grown, bringeth forth death.

First observe that it says God cannot be tempted with evil. If Jesus were wholly God and wholly man these two passages would be in contradiction. No evangelical in his right mind would agree to scripture contradicting itself. Then there is the next problem for most “Christians”, “each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.” Someone will scream blasphemy but, did Jesus have lusts? Yes. Was he enticed? Yes. Was he drawn away to agree with the lust? No. How do I know? It says so in Hebrews 4:15-16.

For this to happen Jesus would have to have a flesh like ours. Jesus would have to have lust in his flesh. He would have to have a will that was different from his father’s. And by his own words in Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36 and in Luke 22:42 Jesus is recorded as saying essentially the same thing. “Not my will but thine be done.” Clearly here I am confronted with two (2) wills; God the Father’s will and Jesus’ will. Yes absolutely Jesus had a will that was different from his father’s.

Someone will say that this understanding makes Jesus something less and we must not accept it. Let me answer with a couple of questions. Which is greater someone who could not be tempted not being tempted or someone who could be tempted overcoming temptation? 1 Peter 2:21 says

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps

So how would it be possible for me to follow the steps of the God-man? Is it more conceivable that I might follow the steps of the man Jesus?

For me the man Jesus did what no God-man Jesus could ever do and that makes him so far better that there are no words to describe it fully. The man Jesus left me an example to follow. The man Jesus promises to not allow me to be tempted beyond my ability (1 Corinthians 10:13). Because Jesus was a man when I read 1 John 1:8-9 I can continue reading to the next chapter where it says “My little children, these things I write to you so that you may not sin…”  I can have hope to overcome. I can have a hope to be transformed into His image (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:19) if I will persevere (Galatians 6:9).

Finally on this matter I am compelled to mention the scripture in 2 John 1:7:

For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

My second major problem is a result of the first. Since Evangelical Christianity proclaims the God-man Jesus personal transformation is not possible. Therefore the message is reduced to the forgiveness of sins and behavior improvement. The absolutes of God’s Word are reduced to strong suggestions and the promises to wishful thinking.

Instead of saying we should speak evil of no one we are told to pray for them at least as much as we badmouth them (Matthew 12:37). If God were a man who heard all of our words that might be confusing for him. We sing songs pleading “remember me oh God” as if he might forget us. I have actually heard a paid pastor say that if someone tells you that ‘God won’t give you more than you can bear’, that’s just a cliché.

In the beginning God created all things by his Word (Genesis 1, John 1) and he upholds all things by his word (Hebrews 1:3). We were created in His image and it is his will that we be changed into his image, shouldn’t we be very careful with our words.


As I said at the beginning I believe these issues to be very serious. I would welcome any help to see how I am in error. I desire to be a disciple of Jesus. Please understand that I offer these words in humility and fear.