Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

When Prejudice Meets The Word

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Last weekend’s message was simple but very difficult for me to deliver. Remember the major point from the weekend, as Malachi helped us to Reset Justice?  – “Correcting injustice in the world, begins with God correcting injustice in me. “  It was a heavy message for me to deliver, but God lifted my spirit in an amazing way as someone literally allowed God to immediately deal with the injustice in their own hearts.

After the 11:00 service a man approached me and said he needed to ask me to forgive him. Immediately, I wondered what it could be. He told me that when I was introduced as the candidate for the position of Senior Teaching Pastor, he didn’t vote for me. “I am sure that many people didn’t vote for me.” I opined. So, his comment was no big revelation to me. What he said next was. He said, “You need to know why I didn’t vote for you.” I continued to listen. Because of his experiences in the past, he had developed a spirit of prejudice and racism against black people. In essence, he was saying he didn’t vote for me because I was black. He began to weep and asked me if I would forgive him. I said it wasn’t a problem. He retorted, “Listen! You don’t understand. I really need you to forgive me. I don’t want the junk of prejudice and racism spilling over into my kids’ lives. I didn’t vote for you and I was wrong. God has been and is using your preaching to impact my life.”Wow! To His glory!

I realized what God was doing. This man heard God and was acting on what he heard. I forgave him. We hugged for a good while, weeping in one each other’s arms (Glad we weren’t in the men’s bathroom doing this – Smile! It was a joke). I was moved, humbled, and I rejoiced as I was reminded that God has me in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. God, thank you for using Malachi to help us see that: Correcting injustice in the world really does begin when we let God correct injustice in us. For His glory!

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Thursday, July 29th, 2010

If you are a parent, you have had to discipline your children for their disobedient behavior, disrespectful tones, and damaging words. If you are anything like me, it breaks your heart to discipline your children (Space does not permit me to talk about all the ways we can discipline our children). Why do we go through such pain? We discipline our children, not because we get some sick satisfaction out of it or because we love seeing them miserable. We discipline them because we love them and desire to see them grow up into godly and healthy children.  It should not surprise us, then, that our heavenly Father, through a number of methods, gives us loving and corrective training that leads to maturity and responsibility on the part of us who experience it (Hebrews 12:5ff. ).

Our Father disciplines us because he loves us (Proverbs 3:11). Discipline is painful and not very fun. Though he can use them and sometimes does, God does not always use illness, financial reversal, disasters or calamity to discipline or punish his children. How, then, does God discipline his children? I believe the most preferred method of discipline our Father uses is his Word. Our Father, through the Holy Spirit, uses his word to teach us how to live for Christ. We don’t always get it right, however. We’re stubborn and rebellious children, aren’t we? We fail God in so many ways on so many days.

It is during these times when God uses a message from the platform, a teaching in small group, a passage from our devotion time with God, or a gentle rebuke from a friend reminding us of God’s truths, to convict us so we can set things right in our lives. Paul says that the Bible is useful for teaching, conviction of sin, setting things right in our lives and discipline in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).  If we hear his word and respond to the sharp prick of his word with repentance, then we share in God’s holiness, bear fruit of right living and look more and more like Jesus. (Hebrews 12:7ff). If we don’t respond to his word favorably, then God might have to resort to using other methods of discipline (I will discuss other methods God uses in my next few posts). Even then, he sometimes delays his discipline to give us a chance to turn from our sin and run to him.  Lord, thank you for your grace! Next time: How God uses the knowledge of his grace to discipline us.

In what areas have you sensed God’s loving and corrective training (discipline) with his word in recent days? How have you responded to his correction?  What have you learned?

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Happy Birthday, Marvin Jr!

Friday, May 28th, 2010

MJs Baby Feet 300x225 Happy Birthday, Marvin Jr!

Thirteen years ago today (May 27th, at 11:25 a.m.), God blessed Tonia and me with our first child – a boy – Marvin Jr.  He weighed in at 6 lbs and 12 ounces and was 20 inches long. Today, we celebrate his quirky humor, silly and passionate laugh, bottomless stomach (He refuses to eat off the kid’s menu), inquisitive mind, his love for science, his artistic ability, his athleticism, his love for video games and legos, his compassionate heart, his concern for children, his growing leadership capabilities, his love for his friends, and his growing love for Jesus.

MJ1 300x225 Happy Birthday, Marvin Jr!

This evening some very important men, men who have had a strong hand in Marvin’s life, will celebrate him by sharing scripture, words of encouragement, life lessons, or symbols of manhood. The apostle Paul said the older men should teach and mentor the younger men. This one example of this biblical principle. We believe he will remember this event for a long time to come. We are so proud of Marvin, and we are expecting God to do some special things with and through him.

Though his birthday was yesterday, please join me and Tonia today as we celebrate our first born, Marvin Lewis Williams, Jr. If you don’t mind, please leave a specific life lesson, a powerful word of encouragement, or favorite scripture for Marvin Jr. in the comment section. Thank you very much.

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Just Wearing the Uniform?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

boy scout uniform Just Wearing the Uniform?

When I was younger, back in the olden days (as my kids would say), I was a boy scout – Pack 5 for life, baby!. The funny thing is, I rarely attended the weekly meetings, I did shoddy work on the merit badge lessons and projects, I rarely read the Boy Scout book/manual to learn how to be a boy scout, and I never had an aspiration of pursuing the highest goal of being a boy scout – eagle scout. I didn’t like the work of being a boy scout; I just liked wearing the uniform, saying that I was part of Pack 5, and going on the fun quarterly camping trips. What kind of boy scout was I? To my chagrin, not a very good one.

This started me thinking about our relationship with Jesus. Do we attend the weekly gatherings of believers in worship and growth communities? Are we full of good works that flow out of our relationship with Jesus? Are we spending unhurried times alone with Jesus? Are we reading the book that feeds our soul and helps us survive in our ungodly and turbulent world? Are we daily pursuing the highest goal of every believer – the likeness of Jesus, our Messiah and Lord? Are we really good disciples? Or, do we just like wearing the uniform and doing the “fun stuff” of following Jesus?

What kind of disciple is it that never or rarely loves (John 13:34-35), meets with other believers (Acts 2:42-44), reads her Bible (John 8:31-33), spends time with the Leader of the pack to become more like him (Mark 3:13-15; Romans 8:28-29) or daily shoulders the burden of being associated with Jesus (Luke 9:23-24)? Probably not a very good. But, it doesn’t have be this way. If we have failed, we can begin again today. Start by spending time alone with Jesus in prayer and reading the Bible. Ask him to revive your soul and renew your commitment to follow him more closely. This week, let’s do more than wear the uniform. Let’s truly be whom our uniform identifies us as – disciples, followers indeed!

What impacted you most about this post? What are some changes you would like to make? How can I pray for you regarding these changes?

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12 Inches Away

Monday, May 10th, 2010

images 12 Inches Away

As I was reading Mark 12 this morning, I was arrested by this statement:  “Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, ‘You are not far from the Kingdom of God.’” Not far from the Kingdom of God? The man complimented Jesus on his knowledge and understanding of the greatest commandments. The man knew that there was one God. He knew how important it was to love God with all his heart, understanding (mind) and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. He knew that following these two commandments was more important than offering burnt offerings and sacrifices required by the law. The man gave Jesus a good answer.

Why then did Jesus give this man a “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” status? I believe Jesus gave him this status because the man understood the right theology, but he had not committed his heart to the right theology he knew. He knew and said all the right words, but he had not fully committed to living the right life. He was a good “talker” of the word who had not yet become a good “doer” of the word. He had embraced the right teaching in his head (I believe knowledge of God and his word is extremely important), but it had not trickled down to his heart and life. The difference was 12 inches away (from his head to his heart). He knew and said he was supposed to do – love God with all his heart, mind and strength, and love his neighbor as himself, but he had not actually committed his life to doing what he was supposed to do.

Is this me? Have I made the great divide even wider (saying the right words, but living the wrong lives) with an incongruous life? Do I just spit good game at God, but have not brought my life into conformity with who he is and what he expects of me? Have I understood much and practiced little? Am I just a “good talker?” Am I guilty of complimenting Jesus for the good that he does, but will not submit my life to him for the God that he is? Do I just love God in theory and on paper or do I really love him with all that I am? Do I see the evidence of my love for God in my deep love for all people?

Lord, help me to close the great divide – saying the right words, but living the wrong life – with a life that is consistent with your character and your values.

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One of Them

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I was reading in Matthew 26 this morning where Peter is confronted two times by several individuals in the courtyard and accused of being associated with Jesus. Each time he denied being with Him. The third time some other bystanders came to Peter and said, “you must be one of them because we can tell by your Galilean accent.” That last accusation arrested my attention and is where the Holy Spirit gave me pause. Here are some questions I sensed Him asking me:

Will I ever be accused of being one of them because I was closely associated with Him?

Can people tell that I am one of them based on the way I talk, my Christ accent? No, I am not talking about using the right Christian language, but the way I respond to all of life, no matter how strange it gets.

Will they be able to tell that I am one of them based on the way I respond during difficult, disappointing and frustrating moments in my day?

Will they be able to determine if I am one of them by the way I use my words to build up, encourage, create, give life, and inspire.

Will they know that I am one of them based on the way I talk to my hurting spouse, my active children, my unfair boss, and my unruly neighbor?

Will bystanders know that I am one of them based on the way I forgive those who offend me, love my enemies, suffer well without and within me, listen and give to the marginalized and disenfranchised consistently?

Will people around me ever accuse me of being one of them based on the way I rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep?

Will I ever be accused of being one of them because I loved and lived like him?

If you are follower of Jesus, can people tell that you are one of them? Is there any language or behavior that may prevent people from ever thinking or believing that you are one of them? What do you need to change?

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Jesus, Stop Blocking!

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

I was reading Mark 5 and the story was about Jesus casting out demons, and God gave me pause as I came across these words from the demon: “Why are you interfering with us?” That question intrigued and convicted me.  I begin wondering if I have privately and secretly mouthed or lived these words to Jesus.

Jesus, why are you interfering? Why are you getting in my way? Why are you interfering with:

my career?

my family?

my plans for the future?

my agenda?

my time?

my success?

my kingdom?

my money?

my profits?

my sleep?

my day?

my life?

“Why are you blocking, Jesus?! We like you, and I might even say we love you, but not enough for you to get in the way of our lives. In fact, when following you becomes too inconvenient and involves too much sacrifice and suffering, we might just tell you to leave us alone, at least until the next time we need you. We apologize in advanced.”

The interesting thing is, when we were sinners on our way to hell, he interfered and rescued us, and we were grateful for his amazing grace, weren’t we? Well, if he was good enough to save us, he has to be good enough to lead us as well, right?

Here is what I’m learning: If he is my King, and I believe he is, then he has the right to get in the way of my life any time he desires. He has the right to interfere with my career, my 3 to 5 to 10 years plans, my family, and even my money. He can interfere because it all belongs to him. He can interfere and redirect if he so desires, without my permission. The assurance I have is, that his interference is designed to make his name famous through me.

Have you ever asked Jesus, “Why are you interfering with me?” How has his interference advanced his kingdom through you?

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Feed On Him

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Although I try to eat healthy – vegetables, chicken, turkey, whole foods, and ample water, there are times when I allow busyness to take me prisoner and lead me to the seductively beautiful town of “Snackdom.” My typical pattern is busyness leads to imbalance, and imbalance leads to unhealthy eating habits. I resort to eating fast food, junk food, and food that has no nutritional value at all. In doing so, I gain weight, I become sluggish and easily fatigued, I increase my chances of diseases, and I believe I speed up the process of death. In essence, unhealthy eating habits can and will decrease my quality of life. I know this and could do better.

Not only can busyness cause imbalance, unhealthy eating habits and decrease the quality of our life physically, but it also can cause unhealthy eating habits spiritually and decrease the quality of our spiritual life. We resort to feeding off the fast foods of self-sufficiency and yesterday’s blessings, and the junk food of sin, disobedience, spiritual cliches and misinterpreted and misapplied texts from God word.

Jesus is calling us to slow down, minimize the distractions, and develop healthy eating habits, the habit of feeding on him – his words, his life, his thinking.   In feeding on him, we lose the weights of the sins that so easily entangles us, we are energized with his resurrection power, and we respond to life like he would. In Jesus are all the nutrients of real life and living.

My present spiritual eating habit is the “Gospels in 30.” I am reading through the Gospels in 30 days here and journaling about what junk foods of disobedience need to be taken out of my diet and what healthy foods of Jesus’ life need to be added.

What are your present spiritual eating habits? What needs to be taken out of your diet and what needs to be added?

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Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I have won a lot of trophies in my lifetime. I have excelled at baseball, bowling, and martial arts. My trophies are visible exhibitions of my achievement and success. As I was de-cluttering our basement a couple of weeks ago, I saw how much dust my “precious” trophies had collected. As my ego and pride took me down memory lane of each achievement, the Spirit said to me: “Throw them away.” My first reaction was: “But, what about all the practices, sweat, injuries, the time, and the money? How will people know that I have achieved and have succeeded?” Then he reminded me, with these words from Philippians, of the one trophy I should be pursuing everyday:

DSC025962 300x225 Trophies

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith,

DSC025991 300x225 Trophies

. . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.”

DSC025981 300x225 Trophies

What trophies are you holding on to, that Jesus may be calling you to count as rubbish in order for you to be found in him and know the surpassing worth of him?

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Let’s Climb!

Monday, October 19th, 2009

“Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone.” Matthew 17:1

turnagain arm rock 3999 300x194 Lets Climb!

As I read this passage this morning, I sensed that Jesus wants me to climb a mountain with him – the Mountain of Aloneness. I hear him calling me to ascend this mountain with him each day. Here are several observations about this ascent:

1. Jesus desires me to climb this mountain with him each day. He longs for me to say no to my lesser desire of procrastination and say yes to his greater desire of spending quality time with me. I know he wants to spend time with me because he loves me. 

2. Every believer is invited to ascend the Mountain of Aloneness with Jesus, but not every believer will make the ascent. The ascent to be alone with Jesus takes work! It takes getting up early, staying up late, turning off the television, blocking time, and making preparations to be alone with him.  Are you willing to be the “one” and put in the work to make the climb? 

3. I am led up this mountain by Jesus himself. I am not left alone to climb this mountain by myself. I have a guide who leads me up this mountain. He leads me up this mountain because he desires to reveal himself to me. 

4. There are times I need to climb this mountain with fellow pilgrims.

5. I must leave distractions behind when I ascend this mountain. I am easily held captive by noise, all kinds. I have to decide to fast and detox from my addiction to the noise of life and let the silent aloneness with Jesus quiet and feed my soul. 

6. I see a clearer picture of Jesus when I climb the Mountain of Aloneness with Jesus. I see him more clearly as Messiah and Son. Layers of his person are peeled away, and I see Jesus in his majesty, holiness, and power.

Will you ascend the Mountain of Aloneness with Jesus with me this week. It’s worth the climb and the view is transformational. 

Which observation(s) spoke to your heart the most? What keeps you from climbing the Mountain of Aloneness with Jesus? What changes do you need to make in order to make the climb? 

Let’s Climb!

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