Whole-Hearted Discipleship

Discipleship Tested

Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions (Luke 14:25-33, NASB).

Scripture regularly mentions Jesus surrounded by crowds. I’d suspect that these were large crowds. Yet, considering the regularity with which crowds surrounded Him, I’m left with a question:

While there are often crowds, how many from these crowds are His followers?  Continue reading

A Clear Conscience

But this I admit to you, that according to the Way [Christianity] which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men (Acts 24:14-16, NASB).

No Regrets.

This has always been a personal goal: to live my life without regrets. There are definitely decisions that I’ve made during my life that weren’t the best in hindsight. And I’d call “bollocks (i.e. nonsense)” on anyone who suggests that they’ve never made a poor decision during theirs. Yet, I’ve been fortunate. I carry few regrets—at least, based on how I define regret. Continue reading

Prejudice

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48, NASB).

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:254, NASB)

THE INCREASINGLY COMMON PRACTICE OF EXHIBITING GROUP PREJUDICE
The intense hatred and divisiveness that is commonly seen whenever checking the news or conversing through social media is harrowing. Much of it seems driven by group prejudices towards various classes and ideologies. Regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, social class, educational background, or ideological worldview, we’re all susceptible to prejudicial thought and behavior.

None of us are immune. Continue reading

The Narrow Path

Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament warned Israel that they were not safe just because they lived in the land of Israel, so we are not safe just because we wear the label ‘Christian’ or because some people persist in calling us a ‘Christian nation.’ ~Francis Chan

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I’ve come to believe that how we respond to our circumstances—whatever they may be—is highly correlated with our identity. Continue reading

Like A Child

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-4, NASB).

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great” (Luke 9:47-48, NASB).

INTRODUCTION
My mother has often told me that I was born an old man. When I finally asked her for clarification, she answered, “You were a serious kid, and very aware of your surroundings.” Continue reading

Feeling Pressure: Fear Versus Faith

The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.
~Mark Messier, NHL Hall-of-Fame player (Oilers/Rangers)

Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing
~Chuck Noll, NFL Hall-of-Fame Coach (Steelers)

‘Pressure’ is a word that is misused in our vocabulary. When you start thinking of pressure, it’s because you’ve started to think of failure.
~Tommy Lasorda, MLB Hall-of-Fame Manager (Dodgers)

Courage is grace under pressure
~Ernest Hemingway, Author

Whatever you see—any good results—are all from the pressure
~Ziyi Zhang, Author

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following post intentionally applies a secular position through its majority, eventually applying a Christian perspective near its conclusion. The rationale for this decision is that it will help non-Christians see the general relevance of the topic, while also highlighting my view that a Christian perspective for addressing moments when feeling pressure (or confronting those poorly dealing with pressure) is best. This post focuses on issues that I believe are both prevalent and pervasive within the culture in which I find myself. I attempt to be as thorough as possible in my logic and as reasonable as possible with my justifications. What I do not claim is omniscience or perfect clarity on this issue—or any issue. Therefore, I welcome thoughtful dialogue with anyone who may disagree with any or all of my positioning | Any bold, magenta words within this post are hyperlinks that provide useful, supplemental information. If the magenta hyperlink is followed by (a), for example(a), then there is an available blog or appendix page that allows for a deeper look into the topic hyperlinked.

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INTRODUCTION
Feeling pressure. Who doesn’t feel pressure at one time or another? But for as frequently as we feel pressure, do we even understand why we feel it? And, what is “pressure”—really? Continue reading

bad eyes

To say that a thing is good is merely to express our feeling about it; and our feeling about it is the feeling we have been socially conditioned to have.

But if this is so, then we might have been conditioned to feel otherwise. ‘Perhaps’, thinks the reformer or the educational expert, ‘it would be better if we were. Let us improve our morality.’ Out of this apparently innocent idea comes the disease that will certainly end our species (and, in my view, damn our souls) if it is not crushed; the fatal superstition that men can create values, that a community can choose its ‘ideology’ as men choose their clothes. Everyone is indignant when he hears the Germans define justice as that which is to the interest of the Third Reich. But it is not always remembered that this indignation is perfectly groundless if we ourselves regard morality as a subjective sentiment to be altered at will. Unless there is some objective standard of good, over-arching Germans, Japanese and ourselves alike whether any of us obey it or no, then of course the Germans are as competent to create their ideology as we are to create ours. If ‘good’ and ‘better’ are terms deriving their sole meaning from the ideology of each people, then of course ideologies themselves cannot be better or worse than one another. Unless the measuring rod is independent of the things measured, we can do no measuring. For the same reason it is useless to compare the moral ideas of one age with those of another: progress and decadence are alike meaningless words.

~C.S. Lewis, The Poison of Subjectivism, p. 73

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a world claiming truth found solely in self,
within identities of limitless varieties,
an idol of independence placed upon a most prominent shelf,
while succumbing to sin and its subjectivities, Continue reading

Merely Sharing the Story

INTRODUCTION
I recently heard a sermon where the pastor made a simple, yet profound, point about understanding the Gospel. He said that for individuals to understand the good news of the Gospel, they must first accept the bad news regarding our “natural” state. Expounding further, he said that if individuals can’t see the need for God in their lives, they’ll be unable to see the necessity of the Gospel. In other words, he suggests that for people to see Gospel Truth, they must be aware of their circumstances when they are outside of God’s grace and mercy.
Continue reading

Kindness: Pay It Forward

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
~Lao Tzu

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love”
~Saint Basil

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you”
~Princess Diana

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”
~Mark Twain

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For the past few months, the young professionals group at my church has been conducting a scriptural study on fruits of the Spirit. Recently, we investigated kindness as a fruit of the Spirit. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul provides a list of these fruits:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB).

As has been emphasized in other posts that I have recently written on fruits of the Spirit, certain characteristics are present among them all. A few core commonalities among fruits of the Spirit; they are: Continue reading

the voice unheard

“A riot is the language of the unheard” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

“He who comes to a conclusion when the other side is unheard, may have been just in his conclusion, but yet has not been just in his conduct” ~Seneca

“Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune” ~Carl Jung

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” ~Jesus Christ

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in the noise of silence is the voice unheard,
not spoken from mouth, nor evoking word,
hidden behind high gates within the depths of the heart,
emoting anguish and despair; tearing the soul apart, Continue reading

in finding hope

“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.” ~Samuel Smiles

“At the end of the day, we must go forward with hope and not backward by fear and division.”    ~ Jesse Jackson

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness” ~ Desmond Tutu

“Hope is patient with the lamp lit.” ~ Turtullian

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hope is future’s chance—indeed, a belief,
that more is not the same as before,
rather than pain and suffering appears relief,
fervent faith the means to restore,

Continue reading

Joy: Following An Eternal Perspective

“I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something…it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting.” ~Joyce Meyer

“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone—but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.” ~Walter Anderson

God’s plan for enlarging His kingdom is so simple—one person telling another about the Savior. Yet we’re busy and full of excuses. Just remember, someone’s eternal destiny is at stake. The joy you’ll have when you meet that person in heaven will far exceed any discomfort you felt in sharing the gospel.” ~Charles Stanley

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The purpose of this post is to examine the scriptural meaning of joy. More specifically, it will attempt to address the following three questions:

  1. What is joy?
  2. Are their types of joy?
  3. How can we experience more joy?

Continue reading

Peace through Love and Forgiveness

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”                    ~ Mother Teresa

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”                    ~ Francis of Assisi

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend” ~ Abraham Lincoln

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UNDERSTANDING PEACE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
At Sunday school a few weeks ago, our young professionals group examined the biblical meaning of the word “peace.” After reviewing definitions from a number of sources, and considering these definitions against scripture, we arrived at a succinct definition:

Unity absent conflict

While not typically included within a secular definition, unity is an essential component of biblical peace. When realizing that unity is necessary for biblical peace, we should become aware that how we pursue such peace differs from the traditional, secular definition of the word. While some people may seek “peace and quiet” by avoiding others and finding environments absent noise and disturbance, biblical peace cannot be achieved in this manner. For Christians, biblical peace is about establishing healthy relationship with God and others. Moreover, it requires believers to be at peace with all people (including non-believers) as much as it depends on them (Romans 12:18).

The Christian understanding of God’s being is emblematic of biblical peace. Christians believe in a Trinitarian God—three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in one God—existing in perfect harmony. God is never at conflict with Himself. As sinners, the same cannot be said of our relationship with Him. Continue reading

angel

“The angels are so enamored of the language that is spoken in heaven that they will not distort their lips with the hissing and unmusical dialects of men, but speak their own, whether their be any who understand it or not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“All God’s angels come to us disguised.” ~ James Russell Lowell

“The guardian angels of life fly so high as to beyond our sight, but they are always looking down upon us” ~ Jean Paul Richter

“Angels descending, bring from above, echoes of mercy, whispers of love.” ~ Fanny J. Crosby

“If trouble hearing angels’ song with thine ears, try listening with thy heart.” ~ Terri Guillemets
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oh my angel! with thy voice ethereal sweet,
i beseech you, dare entreat,
this lowly man, firmly held to ground,
permit my ears to hear thy sound, Continue reading

twilight

“You cannot, in human experience, rush into the light. You have to go through the twilight into the broadening day before the noon comes and the full sun is upon the landscape” ~ Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President

“Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object” ~ Albert Camus, Author and Philosopher

“The past is the beginning of the beginning and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn” ~ H.G. Wells, Author

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situated within the twilight,
between night and day, the dawn and dusk,
walking with partial sight,
regarding what next to do, in “Whom” to trust, Continue reading

Sentimental

“The difference between sentiment and being sentimental is the following: Sentiment is when a driver swerves out of the way to avoid hitting a rabbit on the road. Being sentimental is when the same driver, when swerving away from the rabbit, hits a pedestrian.”                                           ~ Frank Herbert, science-fiction writer

 “I am not a sentimental person.” ~ Jack Kevorkian, “Dr. Death”

 “High culture is paranoid about sentiment. But human beings are intensely sentimental.               ~ Thomas Kinkade, artist
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INTRODUCTION
Humans are sentimental. However, I believe that how one defines being sentimental—and exhibits sentimentality in deed—determines whether one views being sentimental as a destructive or constructive emotional response. My intentions within this writing are to:

  • Examine how being sentimental is capable of being both destructive and constructive
  • Elaborate on how I view and apply sentimentality in my life (focusing on the constructive)
  • Consider how aspects of sentimentality may function in the process of Christian sanctification

Continue reading

a dreamer’s reality

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” ~Pope John XXIII

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

“Dreams are the seedlings of reality.” ~Napolean Hill

“I have spread my dreams under your feet; tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.” ~William Butler Yeats

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The following poem is inspired by the eternal optimism–the faith and hope–that is contagiously exhibited by my best friend, Jeremy, whose birthday is today. May you enjoy your special day with God smiling down on you and that great faith!
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like a phantom feather to begging skin it tickles,
as the eyes shut and sounds are silenced to ear,
senility of the subconscious vacates sensibilities,
for emotions and desires now pray for solid form, Continue reading

Discomfort: Leaving Our Cocoons For Christ

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” ~ Pope John Paul II

“As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” ~ Luke 9:57-58

INTRODUCTION
I returned from a trip to Virginia earlier this May in a poor state of mind. During the long drive back to Georgia, my thoughts wandered; pondering circumstances that I have no control over. For most of the week following, I struggled with anxiety… Continue reading

for mothers

“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” ~ Mermillod

“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.” ~ Beecher

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” ~ Lincoln

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This poem is to recognize and honor all those wonderful mothers out there; including my own mother whom I love very much.
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for our mothers on this day of recognition,
please allow us to make this loving admission,
your love deserves more than one day a year,
and trust that our love for you is sincere, Continue reading