Discipleship goes beyond religious rules, methodology & theology

The only way a human can continually manifest the character of Jesus (the fruit of the Spirit) is by denying and dying to the desires and demands of sin and of self (the flesh) and instead, being continually led by the Spirit (the living Jesus). That goes beyond theology and methodology. It’s an ongoing choice to embrace love, sacrifice, surrender, obedience, and relationship, and to follow “Christ in you” no matter what the cost.

It’s not enough to be inspired and informed by Scripture. We must be inwardly transformed by it–overcome and undone. “Let the word of God dwell in you richly.” “Be doers of the word, not hearers only.”

The living Jesus isn’t subjective. “Christ in you” isn’t your whims or opinions. He’s real and He speaks objectively within human hearts! Listen. Humans also have an inner objectivity that often resists personal feelings, desires, or opinions. It’s called conscience.

Religious methodology and theology cannot mend this heart of mine, but the living Jesus does! When we self-identify as human, we’re all in the same boat.

The New Testament is full of “one another” commands. I’m so glad God has given me committed, radical Christ-followers to walk in the Spirit with! I need other humans to help me walk with Jesus. Jesus is building communities of the heart–people who are connected heart-to-heart with Him and with all who love and obey Him.

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All skin-colors are created equal!

People who propagate
The idea that skin-color
Is a justification for hate
Human rights.

Search for:
Off the RACE Track--From Color-Blind to Color-Kind.
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Should worship be more than songs & a sermon?

When you continually hear and follow His voice, Jesus becomes more than a religious belief system. He becomes both your Lord and your friend. Hearing Jesus requires no skill. It only requires your willingness to hear.

If you’re not excited about Jesus, you’re probably not hearing Him speak to you. The first step to hearing Jesus is being willing to hear Him. If you don’t want to submit to and obey Jesus, you won’t be willing to hear Him speak to you.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. –Colossians 3:16.

Sermons are easily forgotten. Passively listening to one man talk, week-after-week, isn’t a very effective way to create sold-out, surrendered, and sacrificial Christ-followers. Perhaps you’re on to something. Songs make us want to participate, not just spectate. Singing faith-filled songs from the bottom of your heat is powerful! When I’m at home, I’m frequently asking Alexa to play whatever Christian songs come to my heart. Then I sing along and pour my heart out to the risen Jesus. What a blessing! Anointed songs release joy that causes us to want to sing along, but sermons compel us to be passive (even board) members of an audience.

The phrase, “teach and admonish one another” is one of the more than 50 “one another” commandments in the New Testament. It appears that early Christianity was participatory, not passive! Let’s free up modern Christians to “teach and admonish one another” rather than always being taught and admonished by the same person, week after week. 1 Corinthians 14:26 tells us that everyone can have something to share when we come together. “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, . . .” Jesus wants to speak through everyone present, not just through one special person.

When we gather in Jesus’ name, let all God’s people sing. Let them all testify. Let them all share what God is revealing to them and what He is doing in their life! Because churches have neglected to train their members to be “led by the Spirit,” many don’t even know what it means. (See Romans 8:14.)

People cling to the belief that Jesus only speaks in special ways to special people because that relieves them from the responsibility of hearing Him for themselves. However, according to the Bible, true Christians are supposed to hear Jesus and are led by God’s Spirit. (John 10:27 and Romans 8:14.) If you’re unwilling to hear and obey Jesus, you can’t follow Him.

Debating doctrine is divisive. Hearing and obeying the living Jesus brings Christians into heart-felt unity. You can’t give your total loyalty to your nation (or anyone or anything else) and to the risen Jesus at the same time. Caesar and Jesus can’t both be Lord.

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Life is like bowling (inner peace is too)

When anxiety strikes, get busy. Spare no time knocking down its pins. You can’t knock down the bowling pins of anxiety if you let your mind roll into the gutter.

“Life’s like bowling. A pinsetter keeps setting up pins–negative thoughts, tormenting emotions, and destructive desires. Our job is to keep knocking them down.” Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The way to experience His peace and not be troubled is to use the spiritual weapons that He has freely gives us and knock down the devil’s pins that constantly try to disrupt our inner peace. Doing that we can refuse to let our heart to be troubled.

My heart is frequently tempted to be troubled, but I use God’s spiritual weapons to resist and knock down the pins of trouble. I use weapons like continual prayer, brokenness, humility, resistance to all things demonic, faith, honesty, confession, repentance, staying focused on the risen Jesus, daily heart-felt Bible reading, praying with other people, asking people to pray for me, thinking on godly things, pursuing holiness and God’s kingdom, frequently reading anointed Christian writers (most of them already in Heaven), speaking in tongues, refusing to watch or listen to sinful media, taking communion, listening to and worshiping with powerful praise music, telling Jesus I love Him, listening to Jesus and doing what He tells me to, etc.

Counterfeit peace consists of the mere distraction of our attention away from our anxiety and/or various attempts to deny or medicate our angst. I sometimes turn to various types of clean entertainment in a futile attempt to find peace. However, it never gives me anything but temporary distraction.

Jesus is the Illuminator. Seeing life through His eyes makes it bright and filled with light!

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Too many labels & attempts at identity

Last week I met a stranger named Person and someone gave me a bottle of water simply labeled H2O. Perhaps we over label people! Then I read where someone had posted: “The Bible calls us to leave behind all the old earthbound categories.” Over categorizing things complicates life, and too much labeling of people limits our ability to show them love, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Trying to feel better about our wrongful behavior by comparing our “badness” to other people’s “immorality” is a false measure because we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” so much that none of us deserve the label “good.” The Bible even states that “All your righteousness is as filthy rags,” and “There is none righteous, no not one.” Self-effort can never make a person good. Instead, we need a supernatural change in our inner nature. We need to die to our unholy self and let the living Jesus live in, transform, and direct us.

Although we like to categorize degrees of immorality, in reality there are no hierarchies of sin. Whether someone kills one person or a million people, he is a murderer. Whether he tells one lie or a million lies, he is a liar. Whether he commits one sin or a million sins, he is a sinner. We are all dead in trespasses and sins. The only way out is to be born again into Jesus’ resurrection life.

To achieve and maintain sanity is one of life’s most important goals. Over labeling doesn’t help. All dishonesty is a twisting, distorting, and denying of reality.

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“One anothering” in The Salvation Army

There are 50+ “one another” verses in the Bible. When Christians seek to obey them, hearts begin to connect and community occurs. We can’t “bear with each other” and follow the other “one another” commands if we refuse to band together and instead insist on our “individual rights.” The Bible is a group text written to communities. Very little of it is written to individuals.

Those “one another” Bible verses mostly deal with relationships with other people. They are interactive behaviors much more than singular actions.

My wife and I were asked by The Salvation Army in Nashville, Tennessee to start a “nontraditional church” in an empty church building in a rough East Nashville neighborhood. We modeled it according 1 Corinthians 14:26 and the New Testament concept of “ekklesia” (the proper name of the town hall meetings in ancient Greek cities). Instead of a sermon, we allowed anyone present to say and do what they felt prompted to by the Holy Spirit as they considered “others better than yourself.” It was an amazing 9 1/2 years of powerful demonstrations of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I wrote a book about it: Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible–Ekklesia. Give it a search.

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Strange conversation with a “non-racist” stranger

I was in a conversation with a stranger last night. When I told him I was a writer he asked what I write. I had him google my author page. When he saw my book, “Off the RACE Track,” he went into a long rant demeaning Black people while telling me he’s not prejudice. I tried to tell him that the book is about the joyous experience of racial diversity, but he kept voicing hostile words. I wish people who believe that racism is gone could have heard his long diatribe.

Since I met Jesus, when I think about people I try to begin with Christ. He has led me to joyous interaction with people of many colors, nationalities, cultures, religions, politics, etc. I want to approach people with God’s Spirit and His wisdom, not with my emotions, my opinions, and/or my upbringing.

I seek to deal in realism by seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness in my interactions with and opinions about other people and people groups. The Cross destroys the idealism that there is such a thing as “good people” and makes me realize that we all have sinned and desperately need God’s ongoing mercy.

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When moral progress is in retreat, life is headed for defeat.

When moral progress is in retreat, life is headed for defeat. Today people don’t like to discuss what it means to sin. They’d rather just do it and not think about the ethics or the consequences. God has the answer to overcoming sin.

When education doesn’t include moral standards, it graduates students who lack wisdom to overcome their desires and to avoid harmful behaviors. Wisdom matters!

When we’re born again, a new person is birthed in us. Then there is conflict between the old person born of the flesh and the new person born of the Spirit. The process of putting off the old person (dying to self) and putting on the new person (being changed from glory to glory) begins. The Bible calls this process both repentance and sanctification. Theology calls it spiritual formation. We are not only to “strip off” our old person, but also its practices.

When the Bible uses the term “knowledge,” it isn’t mere “information.” The Greek word is “epignōsin” and it means recognition and discernment. The new person is being made new in its ability to recognize and discern like God does. It is learning to see from God’s perspective instead of from a human perspective.

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The word sin may seem outdated, but the practice of sin isn’t.

Wrongful behaviors, thoughts, feelings and desires are like the mighty current in a river. We don’t know how strong our corruption is as long as we are flowing cooperatively along with it, but when we sincerely try to resist it, we realize that it has us trapped. We don’t know how hard it is to be good until we try to fully overcome our bad behaviors, thoughts, desires, and feelings and no longer compromise with them.

To rid ourselves of such things requires both resistance (“Resist the devil and he will flee from you”) and intimacy with the living God (“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”) Sometimes when we desperately cry out to God for freedom, He will suddenly deliver us in a moment, but often it requires much time and struggle as we die to ourselves and learn to submit to His will rather than to the desires that control us. The persistent struggle against sin can bring us to the blessedness of being broken and poor in spirit. Then when the deliverance finally comes, we’re deeply and forever grateful to Jesus.

I love the Bible, read it daily, and try to obey it. As I read it, the Spirit makes the words burn in my heart and I hear Jesus’ voice. Because Jesus is alive and present, you can follow Him directly without having to jump thru religious hoops and He can rescue from the inner currents of corruption.

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Spirit-led, heart-to-heart connection

Group prayer
Is an opportunity to share
Your heart with God
And with those who care
To be in prayer
With you.

Jesus wants His followers to gather in Spirit-led, heart-to-heart connection. We can’t be consciously connected heart-to-heart unless we honestly, humbly, and compassionately open up to each other. When we do connect heart-to-heart, Jesus manifests His presence among us.

We need more than teaching and preaching. Modern Christians are probably the best taught and preached at believers in history. We have seminaries and Bible schools and the pastors and workers they train. We have teaching books and videos galore. We have Christian TV, radio, blogs, and YouTube channels. Yet with all that teaching and preaching, we seem to be stuck in a form of godliness without the power to arrest and crucify our sins. Why? Teaching and preaching can never take the place of Spirit-led, heart-felt honesty, humility, and compassion.

Regulated Christian gatherings that are controlled, contained, and curtailed by a rigid program miss out on the spontaneity of the Spirit. We need to open up to “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

Deception is misperception caused by a lack of the humble and obedient reception of truth. Hearing truth does us little good unless we humbly receive it in our heart and obey it with our life.

Testimony time? When is it time to show and tell what Jesus is doing and has done in your life? Anytime the Spirit prompts you to!

I’m never bored
Where Jesus,
The risen Lord,
Is passionately adored!

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