The Desperate Need for Discipleship

And happy anniversary to Discipleship Journeys with Jesus!

The need for discipleship around the world is desperate and immense. In Jesus’ Great Commission of 6078914314, there is only one grammatical command and it is to “make disciples.” Yet true discipleship is often missing in Christianity.

In his book The Great Omission, Dallas Willard expressed the problem in this way: “Churches are filled with ‘undiscipled disciples,’ as Jess Moody has called them. Of course there is in reality no such thing. Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have never decided to follow Christ.”

The need for discipleship creates major difficulties within Christianity, which those who are experienced in worldwide ministry are well aware of and greatly concerned about.

Dr. Marvin J. Newell is Senior Vice President of Missio Nexus, a network of evangelical mission agencies, churches and training centers. He described this desperate need for discipleship in this way:

The lack of genuine changed lives has become the greatest omission of the Great Commission the world over. All too often “proselytes” are made instead of “disciples.” When this happens, churches get filled with bodies that exhibit little evidence of changed beliefs and behaviors.

This results in spiritually apathetic adherents who quickly deteriorate into dysfunctional gatherings or nominal Christianity. They easily become victims of aberrant doctrine, heresy and deviant cults. Although they wear the label “Christian” many are not Christ-followers at all. They are superficial followers of “the way” in need of a genuine conversion experience. This sad state has become the bane of the Church the world over. Superficial conversions and inflated statistics only promote non-authentic outcomes.

To address this distressing need for discipleship, we launched 800-411-8777 (DJJ) in September of 2016, two years ago this month. Our vision is to help provide a clear process of discipleship, especially for the half billion Christians in the (513) 564-0728 who often lack any discipleship materials in their language.

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Psalm 119:105

God’s word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. His word is a lamp because it shows us our need for Jesus Christ, our Savior. God’s word is a lamp in that it also protects us from danger and reveals truth; and His word is a lamp that guides and directs our footsteps.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net. 

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One of the ways that my husband demonstrates his love is by doing all he can to ensure my safety and well-being. He ordered me a battery-operated alarm to carry with me that I can use to sound a loud noise if I’m ever in trouble. In addition, there are numerous powerful flashlights in our home, in case I’m in the dark and without electricity. There is a flashlight in my car and I carry one in my handbag as well, all because of his care.

He has also positioned several battery-operated LED lanterns in strategic places throughout the house; such as the kitchen, family room and bedrooms.

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Some Christians are confused about this issue.

Living together before marriage is becoming increasingly common in many places around the world. Surprisingly (or perhaps not) it is also becoming more prevalent amongst those who call themselves Christians. In fact, recently I became aware of some Christian parents who were actually insisting that their daughter and her boyfriend live together before marriage to “try things out and make sure they work.” I was astounded, but I understand this is not that uncommon.

living together before marriage

Photo by 5178121506 on Unsplash

So, I’d like to help those who are Christians understand what the Bible says about this topic.

Here are the three Scriptural points I’d like to say on this subject, which I will elaborate on below.

  1. God prohibits sex outside of marriage.
  2. God gives prohibitions to protect us, 4704279746.
  3. Sex within marriage is not just God’s suggestion, it is His mandate.

Here are my explanations of these three points related to living together before marriage:

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for every burden, every trial, and every heartache.

Someday, when this life is over, Christians will be in the presence of Jesus Christ, our Savior; and we will thank Him for every burden, trial and heartache. We will see Him face to face and every difficulty will fade in the light of His glory.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net.

Someday

Knowing that someday I will be with Jesus and thank Him for every burden, trial and heartache gives me encouragement. He uses difficulties to grow faith but, occasionally I feel depressed about trials. Sometimes, I experience fear and worry while at other times I complain about my problems.

But, when I feel this way, I continue to communicate with Him. I respectfully let Him know when things are painful, and I express my feelings to Him. Then I ask Him for strength and reaffirm my faith that though I don’t understand how, I believe He will bring good out of everything. (510) 403-6277 and someday, in His presence, I will thank Him for every burden, trial and heartache.

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…that makes happiness. — Charles Spurgeon

It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. Many people have so much money and material possessions, but they are terribly unhappy. Conversely, those who have considerably less are some of the happiest people on the planet.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net.     

how much we have

My maternal grandmother passed away many years ago, but she made a great impression on me. She knew first hand that it’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes for happiness. She never forgot the lessons learned as a young woman living through the “Great Depression”. In fact, they shaped her frugal, resourceful, enterprising and creative personality. I still remember her favorite expression, “Let’s make do.” and she did time and time again; always with style and refinement.

She went through times of hardship and plenty as a wife, mother, grand and great grandmother. But, through hard work and determination, she was also a college graduate; a teacher, painter, gardener, seamstress, interior decorator, real estate investor and business owner. She retained her practical nature all of her life. I remember when I was newly married with children, she spent time mentoring me on how to decorate, meal plan, parent, bargain hunt, clean, organize and entertain. She knew how to enjoy life and that was the key to her happiness. I miss her.

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If that is even the right question to ask.

How raunchy should Christian humor be? Recently I was referred to comments made by a celebrity who claims to have become a born-again Christian years ago. I listened to the comments on YouTube and then watched another video of “greatest hits” from that celebrity. Wow, I was treated to a combination testimony coupled with some of the crudest lines I’ve ever heard. It got me thinking that it might be time to address the issue of Christians and raunchy entertainment.

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OK, maybe I’m a little naive: I typically don’t watch off-color movies or crude TV programs. And some might even call me prudish after reading what I have to say on this topic. However, I have to insist that Scripture teaches “prudish” behavior and I’m only following orders from God’s Word. (By the way, I LOVE clean humor and enjoy laughing as much or more than the next guy.)

What does the Bible say?

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:3-4 ESV)

OK the word “raunchy” isn’t in there. But the idea is! It says to avoid:

  • “Sexual immorality”
  • “All impurity”
  • “Filthiness”
  • “Foolish talk”
  • “Crude joking”

See, it’s not just me. It’s biblical direction. If the humorous (or for that matter serious) entertainment we’re exposing ourselves to fits any of the descriptors in the list above, it is verboten for Jesus’ followers. It’s not me, it’s the Bible’s instruction.

At this point I hear coming back at me objections and excuses, so I’d like to address a few of them.

Answers to objections related to raunchy Christian humor:

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love…

…and his wonderful deeds for mankind. (Psalm 107:21 NIV)

We can give thanks to the Lord for so many reasons, but His unfailing love and wonderful deeds for mankind are among the greatest. His great love for us is unfathomable and His deeds for mankind, specifically His work of salvation for us through Jesus Christ, is incomparable.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net. 

give thanks to the Lord

I started a journal to give thanks to the Lord a few years ago and I now have over 11,000 entries. Each morning during my quiet time with the Lord, I take a few minutes to reflect on my blessings and list between: 5 to 10. They range from small to great things, including my husband, children, parents and relatives.

I thank God for His provision and protection. I try to be specific too; such as giving thanks for a birthday, a doctor’s appointment, sleep and waking me to see another day. I thank Him for other Christians and those who mentor me; my community, neighbors and church. I thank Him for prayer, His Word and my salvation.  I also reflect on the previous day and remember to thank Him for each event.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…

…and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus simply says, “Come to me.” This is an open invitation to all who are weary and burdened to come to Jesus and receive His rest.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net.

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I grew up in the Catholic Church and regular confession of sins and penance was required. Penance varied based on the sin and it always felt punitive, although it didn’t deter me from continuing to sin. I would confess my sins to the Priest and he would tell me how many “Our Father’s” and “Hail Marys” to pray. At 8 years of age, I found myself in a cycle of sin, guilt, confession, prayer and repeat. By the time I was a teenager, my family quit attending church.

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The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11 NIV)

Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. In Biblical times, shepherding was a common and easily relatable occupation. Jesus is called the good shepherd, because in addition to owning and tending His flock with the utmost care; He made the supreme sacrifice by laying down His life to save them.

This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net.

 the good shepherd

Whenever I see a verse about Jesus as the good shepherd, I am reminded of Psalm 23. It is one of the first Psalms that I committed to memory as a new believer about 30 years ago. I regularly recite it as a prayer to the Lord.

There are many books and commentaries written about this well-known and much-loved Psalm. One of the books that I recommend is called, 580-443-6860Keller’s experience as a shepherd enables him to offer a personal and unique perspective about the nature of sheep, shepherding and the good shepherd.

“Sheep are basically timid animals who tend to graze in flocks and are almost totally lacking in protection from predators.” The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, britannica.com.

Sheep need a good shepherd. In fact, they would have a difficult time surviving without one.

Throughout the Bible, God refers to His people as sheep and Himself as the shepherd of the flock. Given the nature of sheep and their 315-944-2395 it is fitting that God would use this metaphor to describe His relationship with His people.

Ezekiel 34:81 says, “You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (NIV)

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I shall be in the land of the living soon.—John Newton

We are still in the land of the dying because death is an inevitable reality for everyone. Even so, death is sometimes shrouded in mystery and the idea of dying for some is incredibly scary. However, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, death need not be mysterious nor fearful for those who believe.

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This is a guest post by Beth Harris. She is a wife, mother, Bible study leader and volunteer editor for markalanwilliams.net. 

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Prior to becoming a believer in my 20’s I didn’t think about dying or death. It seemed so distant and something reserved for the aged. Now, nearly 30 years later, I often think about aging and living in the land of the dying.

Recently, I was attending a celebration of life with my mother and I gently asked her what preparations she would like me to make for after her departure. Of course, I am hoping that she has plenty of life still left to live. But, even though she is a Christian, she would not discuss any of the details with me. I couldn’t even get her to give me a song that she would like to have sung. She simply refused to think about or discuss the matter with me. She just said that she didn’t want any fuss made and she wasn’t planning to leave any time soon.