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2When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see

– Matthew 11:2-4 (NIV)

Jesus dealt with doubt.  This episode in the midst of Jesus’ earthly ministry offers us some insight into staying true to our mission.  When we deal with doubt, we don’t need to get off into the tangents of why would someone ask such a question or where they may havegotten the notion in the first place.  Jesus sets a prime example for dealing with doubters among our membership and in our ministries.

Jesus responded to those who brought John’s inquiry to Him.  He simply told them to relay a message to John.  Jesus answered by showing these messengers that the work was being done. The lame healed and the blind given sight. The Word was being preached to the poor.  He told the disciples of John to go back and tell John what they saw and heard.

He didn’t lay out some excuses or explanation of what He was doing and what He planned or in the works.  He simply offered an exhibition of what He was doing in Galilee and other places.  Jesus showed them by what He did before their eyes and ears, and then told them to go back and share that with John.  What Jesus did caused those who came with an inquiry to walk away with insight into what He actually was doing in word and deed. 

Let us see where we can do likewise.  Deal with doubt directly.  Deal with doubt without delay.  Deal with doubt deliberately.  Deal with doubt.  Demonstrate before the ears and the ears of the doubters.

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Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Many times we confuse activity with action.  We think of being active- simply doing something- doing what needs to be done, although doing something may not lead to accomplishing anything productive.  Activity just means that something is taking place.  Taking action is an entirely different definition.

One definition for “activity” that works here is : any specific behavior,  while “action” is  a deed; something done or accomplished.  Given those two definitions,  it is safe to say that we need to rethink our activities and actions.  They are not synonymous at all.  As we plan our daily activities, we need to ensure that we include particular actions that need to be accomplished throughout the day rather than simply taking up time doing and vegging.  

Will your actions make a difference in the lives of broken people?
Can you see yourself becoming more missional as you become more intentional?
Will you submit to His leading and your personal calling to take action?
See where he leads you and see how it feels.
Check yourself… If God thinks you are ready for the responsibility, then maybe you should stick to praying on your relationship with God, not your decision to do it or not.

Bonhoeffer spoke of responsibility, not simply thoughts.  He was a Lutheran pastor in WWII Germany.  He spoke of readiness.  He shared this openly.  Are you ready to take personal responsibility as you take action? Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s involvement in a plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler led to his imprisonment and execution. 19061945)

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Good leaders must first become good servants.- Robert Greenleaf

Many will credit Robert Greenleaf with the modern concept of “servant leadership.” However, the concept is not new.  Mahatma Gandhi started  touting the tenets of peaceful and passive resistance, something echoed by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. some decades later in the Civil Rights Movement’s nonviolent protests.   Henry David Thoreau introduced a raging sense of citizen rights and civil disobedience in his famed existentialist classic WaldenPlato wrote of our responsibility as citizen leaders in The Republic.  Yet, none of these seem to convey the entirety of being a servant leader in the manner that Jesus covered it while on earth.

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:43-45 (NIV)

Jesus was concerned about his followers get off track.  He wanted them to be concerned about preaching and providing for the people, not positions and titles.  He was certain to point out that the greatest among His followers would be servants and slaves.  He was careful to point out that He did not come to them to be served but to serve and give.  Jesus shared the essence of being a servant leader.

Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges wrote The Servant Leader to help the Christian church and its people see how to follow the model of Christ, the very model that Christ shared with His disciples.  In Lead like Jesus, the duo teamed up to show Christian leaders how to follow Jesus’ model of leadership that He demonstrated.  I find Bob Briner’s The Management Methods of Jesus to be a profound discourse on Jesus’ leadership style as well as Laurie Beth Jones’ Teach Your Team to Fish to serve as a straight-talk, how-to book on following the Lord’s example as a leader in service as he built His team up along the way.

The best source for Jesus’ model of servant-leadership is the Bible, the Gospels in particular.  I would say Mark is one of the better choices when it comes down to the Lord in action.  Luke would serve as a good study about the Lord’s earthly ministry as well.  Matthew tends to be filled with some inherited cultural and messianic references due to the intent of reaching a primarily Jewish audience.  John is a simple read that has the focus on the Lord’s deity and is written as John states so that you may believe (John 20:31).

As you continue in Christian service or prepare to get started serving as a believer, be sure to read, meditate upon and study the following verses:

  • Mark 10:43-45
  • John 13:3-10
  • Hebrews 12:1-3
  • 2 Timothy 2:2
  • Philippians 2:1-11
  • Philippians 4:1-13
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

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As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ – Matthew 10:7 (NIV)

Kingdom workers share the message about the kingdom of heaven.  If you do not share it, it will not spread.  It will only stay with you.  The Good News is too good to keep it to ourselves.  By nature, it should be shared with others.  We, as believers, are to share it as we go to and fro.  We are to “preach this message.”

Believers are serve as the ultimate change agents.  We are to change our environments by adding the transformative element  that gives eternal life- the gospel itself.  If we are not preaching it in word and deed, we are not doing our job and not living out our calling. 

God uses us to reach other people.  He doesn’t need to use a burning bush with people when He can set us on fire to do more than a bush.  He can use our fire to spread the Word to others.  We are to be preaching personified. 

Think about how you can share the Word.  Is it pouring out of your mouth? Is it coming to life by how you live before those who do not believe? Let the Word work through you to reach others with it.

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Creating Fishers of Men:

 

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”-Mark 1:17

Practical Applications

 

  • Relevance

“fishers of men”

Jesus shared something that these fishers understood.  They knew about fishing.  Now they needed to learn about fishing for men.

  • Realism

“. . . I will make you…”

Having an understanding that we need something bigger than us to change us helps us to embrace the change as it starts and continues.

  • Relationships

John 1:35-46; 2:1, 11

When you have experienced a previous encounter with Jesus, you can be led into a deeper relationship with as you leave your nets and livelihood behind to follow Him.

  • Reputation

Mark 1:14-15

Jesus had already been preaching in Galilee.  They knew about Him.  Now they could get to know Him.

  • Resourcefulness

“Follow Me…”

The resources are conditional. We must follow Jesus in order to be made into more than we ever imagined and all that He expects of us.

  • Recognition

Matt. 4:20, 22; Luke 5:11; John 2:11

Jesus had more than charisma.  He had more than character.  He was the Christ, the Anointed One.  He was the Messiah.  He was the Son of God.  He was Immanuel, “God is with us.” People saw it and recognized something different about Jesus.  He shared that these men would no longer be recognized as smelly fishermen but saintly fishers of men.

Jesus offered these men aspects of what we all should offer others as they join our ministries.  He offered them a new way of approaching their walk in life through a calling.

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Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 
Malachi 3:8 (KJV)
 
 
Recently, I took some serious devotional and Bible study time to read Malachi. That’s a major undertaking when you consider what the Lord has to say through Malachi and to whom He is directing His words. The primary points of the biblical book are an accusation and warning to God’s people to act like people of God. Whew! That’s heavy stuff, even for seminary students, Sunday school teachers and simple, set apart and sanctified saints.
 
 
Old school Baptists sum up the prophetic book with quasi-biblical phrases such as: robbing God, opening up the windows of heaven, and bring all of the tithes into the storehouse.  These are certainly not verbatim and definitely not theologically sound when used in convenient contextual arenas.  Tithers hold fast to Malachi chapter 3, primarily verses 8-10, but this has nothing to do with introducing or ordaining the tithe.  It is about trusting God and upholding the practice of tithing as means of seeing that God is true to His promises
 
 
People have been utilizing such passages of the Bible to bully and beat up those who do not tithe for years.  Unfortunately, this is due to a failure to maintain a contextual view of the biblical passage and explore an expository and exhaustive explanation of the text in light of audience, intent and culture and history.  Some things may be lost in translation, but one has to keep in mind what type of Bible or study tools one uses.  A paraphrase will not give you an accurate translation since its main goal is to translate thought for thought, while a literal translation seeks to translate and interpret word for word. 
 
 
I would also like to add a warning about commentaries, especially when one is seeking a clear understanding of the text and its surrounding passages.  Understand what type of tool you have and how to use it.  The root word of commentary is comment.  When you read Matthew Henry’s commentary, it is just a comment by Matthew Henry on that book of the Bible or the entire Bible itself.  What you get is an insight into that particular person’s views on it.  If i use Matthew Henry, I am limited to the depths of Matthew Henry and the prevailing theology of his time.  Ever hear about the Dead Sea Scrolls? Were they discovered before or after Mathew Henry’s commentary? How about Martin Luther’s? Commentary usage requires careful steps to avoid slippery slopes.
 
 
Clearly, once one reads Malachi as an entire study, it becomes as glaring as Jeremiah or Isaiah, even Hosea.  The message is about God’s relationship with His people.  God desires a restored relationship with His people, but if they keep going the way that they have been going there’s no redemption or reconciliation.  God has to stop the nonsense and put the challenge before the people about testing and trying Him to see if He is faithful in delivering His promises.

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Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!
– Proverbs 6:6 (NLT)
Some people are full of ideas. Ideas just pop into their head all of the time. Inspiration and creativity spark inside their minds and they jot down something in a notebook or journal, even on their Blackberry or iPhone. They’re simply full of ideas.
I empathize with such people, for I am one of them. However, as I reviewed some notebooks from a few years back and got drawn in deeper and deeper into my own notes and ideas, I realized that I was full of ideas and need to convert more of my ideas into innovations. I would imagine that that’s the case with many others who share my flaw.
The Bible is full of verses that speak of productivity. Yes, I said productivity. Look at Psalm 1:3, John 15:8 and others that speak of fruitfulness, prosperity and service. Even as salt and light, we are called to produce something that leads to others glorifying the Father based upon what they see in us. Proverbs points out that the “lazybones” should look at the ant and take in the wisdom of such a creature who needs no supervisor or manager and is productive, being considered wise.
Here are some steps for converting your ideas into innovations:
  • Find Initiative: Get an idea about how to get started, but by all means get started and soon.
  • Focus Intensity: Keep your focus on doing and doing it right. Don’t get so intense that you get distracted or detoured doing other things. Keep your intensity focused on the right things.
  • Fortify Infrastructure: Build beyond a “one hit wonder.” Dream about other ways to enhance or expand your idea. Broaden the scope of your vision and build a structure that allows for it to grow and expand into a possible enterprise.
  • Formulate Innovations: Could your sermons become podcasts on iTunes or articles for online e-zines? Could you write a how-to article for your church or community newsletter on the topic? Could you blog or tweet regularly on related and relevant subjects centered around your idea? Think it out, and then plan it out. If you plan on going anywhere but where you currently are, you are going to need a map.

I pray that this is helpful to those who are full of ideas and inspired to convert those ideas into innovations.

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Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.- John 12:11 (KJV)

Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus.  He emerged from the grave and lived on.  His living was not in vain by any means.  Surely, Lazarus lived on as a testimony of the very power of Jesus.

The Gospel of John speaks of Jesus as deity, as God, and as part of the Holy Trinity.  Jesus demonstrated His power in raising Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus’ life testified about the power of Jesus over the grave simply by his living.  It is said that many believed on Jesus because of him.  The people came not  just to see Jesus but to also see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead  (John 12:9, KJV).   Even the chief priests sought to kill Lazarus, according to John 12:10.

How live our lives will serve as a testimony to others.  Some will accept it and embrace us.  Others will reject it and seek to diminish our testimony.  Just live it out in faith.  Someone will see what the Lord has done in your life.  Perhaps, after they hear your life’s story and your testimony, they will seek the Lord for themselves and allow Him to enter into their heart.

 

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He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.- Matthew 10:1 (NIV)

Does anyone remember those Sunday school lessons where you had to recite the books of the Bible? Someone would always get stuck somewhere after Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Or, was it Leviticus? I remember Lutheran school in L.A. County, somewhere near West Covina, and we had to learn the names of the disciples.  We would focus on the “Big Three,” Peter, James, and JohnYou could always remember Judas. That guy just stood out from the crowd.  Then, like always, we would get thrown off with James the Less or Andrew, Peter’s brother, and whether it was Levi or Matthew.  Somebody would try and throw Paul in there and we’d all laugh like we such scholarly theologians ourselves, stumbling over names like Thaddaeus and Bartholomew.  Some folks would quote the Gospels like Mark and Luke were disciples of the Lord like the apostles.  We tried to recite the list of disciples by name, but never really got into what made them a distinct group of men apart from the multitudes and the many believers who followed Jesus and served as His disciples outside of the Twelve.

What made these men different? What did Jesus want to do through these twelve men?

These men were called to do the unorthodox.  They were sent out to do the unheard of task of missional ministry that spreads the Good News and shares of the coming Messiah.  Jesus was specific when He said: “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (Matthew 10:7-8, NIV).  Jesus wanted them designated for the distinct task of preaching to share about eternal life and drive out diseases, healing the sick and raising the dead.  These were so important to Him that He prayed to the Father on their behalf prior to His arrest in the dark of night after the Last Supper.

So what has the Lord called on you to do? Has he assigned you a designated and delegated task to accomplish in His name?

If the Lord has pricked your heart with an inkling to do more for Him, it may very well include one or more of the following:

  • An increased openness to His Spirit’s leading
  • Growing challenged at every turn during and after your Bible study
  • Sensing a spiritual leading to serve at a greater capacity and a higher level
  • Frequent “confirmation” from others about what they see in you that the Lord has put in you or placed inside of you
  • A spiritual uplifting from doing “good works,” praising His name, and having some “good church” (even if it’s by yourself)

There’s are just some things that may be present or occur as you go along your Christian journey.  He can get to you any way He wants to, but are you available to be used by Him? He can designate and delegate something special for you as His disciple.  Can He count on you?

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I wrote Words from the Underground in order to speak out and give a literary voice to the stories that lie hidden within the inner city streets of urban America.  I’ve been out there over the years.  Back in the day, I craved the allure of the street life that promised easy riches and high times.  I discovered that nothing is easy out in the streets, especially when you throw in drugs and money.  Fast forward several years.  I found myself on the streets as I sought to stir up community involvement through urban faith-based and community-based programs.  Later, once a minister of the gospel, I was doing “street ministry,” sharing through the Word and good works.  It was a complete turn around.

 I use my creative expressions through writing and seek to shed light on the darkness that exists and seems hidden from the eyes of most of America.  They do not know the pain of the people.  They fail to see the people on the streets as real people.  To me, it is more than a book.  It’s poetry mixed with social commentary and advocacy.  Perhaps, someone will read this and gain a deeper and clearer understanding of what goes on out there.  Someone else may read this and feel like someone has finally put into words what had been pulsating within them for so many years.  Finally, this may truly move someone to do something.  Maybe someone will develop a program to help others within their city.  Maybe someone else will start speaking out and advocating for the people who live in these inhumane conditions.  Truthfully, I would be satisfied if someone just read my words and started treating people like people, never truly knowing what someone else’s story may be beneath the mask they wear day in and day out.  Maybe so.

Enter into a world unknown to many… the Underground.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

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