Jesus’ Disciples, Not Mine

The Gospel Sync | #28 | John 3:22-36

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Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be discussing the Gospel of John and competition in ministry.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 3:22-36

After this, Jesus and His disciples went into the Judean countryside, where He spent some time with them and baptized. Now John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because the water was plentiful there, and people kept coming to be baptized. (Because John had not yet been thrown into prison.)

Then a dispute arose between John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the issue of ceremonial washing. So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Look Rabbi, the One who was with you beyond the Jordan, the One you testified about—He is baptizing, and everyone is going to Him.” John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease.

The One who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks as one from the earth. The One who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what He has seen and heard, yet no one accepts His testimony. Whoever accepts His testimony has certified that God is truthful. For the One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in His hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, the wrath of God remains on him.”

My Thoughts 

The spirit of competition kicked in with John’s disciples. “Hey John, the guy across the river is stealing all our sheep. What are we going to do?” Happens every time. Why are we so afraid of others’ influence or success? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing when we see the kingdom of God producing fruit even when it’s under the branches of another tree? John the Baptist got this right. He recognized who Jesus was and the work that He was doing. He submitted gladly to the sovereign work of God and reveled in Jesus’ success. 

“But Chuck, you don’t understand, the church across the street, they’re taking all our people. If they were Jesus, I would gladly give up my sheep but they’re NOT Jesus.” 

I’d like to point out three things;

  1. They are not our sheep, they belong to Jesus. Jesus, Himself, makes this abundantly clear. 

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John.10.27-30)

  1. They’re not our disciples, they’re Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus gave us His Great Commission, did He command us to make disciples of us or Him? This is why I never call people MY disciples. I might call them my Timothys or peeps or something else but I leave the term of endearment of “disciple” to be held by Jesus and Him alone. Disciples belong to Jesus. Besides, who wants to see little Chuck Woods running around!?
  1. We aren’t the only ones discipling these people. One of the most common illusions we embrace is the idea that we have exclusive influence in a person’s life as their mentor. Really? So no one else should be speaking into their life? No one else guiding and directing them to Jesus? Even if we tried to have “exclusive rights” to a person, it would never happen unless we were living on a desert island with them. We need to recognize and celebrate the multifaceted contributions of the body. (Just try to tell a believing grandma to keep her spiritual paws off your project, uh, I mean mentee) 

So how do we “cast out” the spirit of competition? First, by acknowledging the people we are discipling, they all belong to Jesus. We should have an open hand with these relationships. He puts people in and He takes them out. He is the Great Shepherd. He knows what His disciples need better than we do. Second, we need to be sensitive to our brothers and sisters. Are you a veteran disciple maker with a big flock? Why are you going to step in and take away the only little lamb they have and rob the young disciple maker of their experience? Why not play the “Cool Uncle” and affirm what the other laborer is doing like Jesus did with John the Baptist. Dialogue with the other disciple maker, work together, give space for someone else to learn their trade.

But what about sheep being abused? Now that’s a different story. If you ever want to see a pastor go prophet, mess with the sheep! If you see spiritual abuse happening, by all means step in and rescue the flock from the wolf in shepherd’s clothing. More on this at a later time.

My Story

When Deb and I were stationed at Fort Benning, GA. we saw the wonderful hand of God move in our midst. We had disciples of Jesus crawling all over one another. We decided we needed to think a little more strategically. So we gathered the leaders together and carved up the geography of Ft. Benning by drawing lines on a map and doled out the pieces to each leader. It didn’t take long for that little act of “brilliance” to cause conflict. It seems a guy was led to Christ in one territory and ate in the Mess Hall in another. When the two leaders realized they were both trying to recruit the poor guy to their respective Bible studies, a tug-of-war ensued. They were miffed at each other for “stealing their guy.” I took our map back out and quickly erased the solid lines we had drawn and replaced them with dotted ones. We then had a great discussion on how the gospel knows no boundaries, Jesus owns all the sheep, and we as His undershepherds need to be sensitive to one another and communicate.

Our Action Plan

So what do we need to work on?

  • Are we affirming other disciple makers or tearing them down to make ourselves look good?
  • Are we a team of leaders (elders, plural) or are we the “only show in town?”
  • Do we have an open hand before the Father as He places people in and takes them out

Our stewardship of the flock requires us to lead and love well. We have to trust God with where He leads His sheep. We need to avoid controlling and competing.

Yellow Lights

The Gospel Sync | #27 | John 3:1–21

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Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be discussing the Gospel of John to see how Jesus addressed those who are curious but not yet ready to repent and believe.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 3:1–21

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. Because no one could do the signs You are doing if God weren’t with him.” Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit. Do not be amazed that I said, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 

Nicodemus asked. “How can this be?” Jesus answered “You are Israel’s teacher, and you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, and yet you people do not accept our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”

My Thoughts 

When we are training folks on how to share the gospel, we talk about three responses to the truth; Red, Yellow, and Green Lights (of course there is a fourth, the one who already believes). A Red Light is someone who flat out rejects Christ and His gospel. The second, the Yellow Light, is one who is curious but not yet ready to receive Christ. And the last is the Green Light, one who is ready and willing to repent and believe. Today we are talking about how Jesus handled a Yellow Light, namely, Nicodemus.

There are several indicators that Nicodemus was a Yellow Light;

  1. He was afraid and came to Jesus secretly at night
  2. He’s asking questions
  3. He’s only thinking on a physical plain, not a spiritual one
  4. He doesn’t understand spiritual truth (which can only be revealed by God)
  5. He doesn’t believe yet (Jesus said of him, “you people do not accept our testimony”)
  6. He is not yet born again by the Spirit

So what do you do with a Yellow Light? What did Jesus do? He continued the conversation by sharing spiritual truth. And Jesus didn’t make it easy on Nicodemus. Jesus used a couple of mysterious spiritual metaphors to communicate. This will reveal what God is doing in someone’s life. We know that spiritual hunger is created by the Father drawing someone to Himself and His Son. This is the only way a person can understand, repent, and believe.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)

So this should take a lot of weight off our shoulders. Salvation is the responsibility of God and the person hearing the message. Jesus kept giving spiritual truth as long as Nicodemus would receive it. He kept the dialog going. Although Nicodemus became an ally, (John 7.50-51, 19.39) we don’t really know if he ever repented and believed. Tradition has it that he did.  

My Story

When I encounter a Yellow Light I begin to introduce them to Jesus by sharing a set of stories called “The Stories of Hope.” When my respiratory therapist began coming to our house twice a month, I shared the gospel with him. He wasn’t ready to repent and believe yet so the next time he came I shared the story of Zaccheaus with him. Each story highlights an interaction with Jesus that leads to repentance and belief. But the punchline of each story is how Jesus responds to their faith. In every story, although in a slightly different way, Jesus makes a proclamation that this individual is now right with God. 

I worked my way through all seven stories with Respiratory Rick, as we like to call him. Although he didn’t respond in faith, I believe he has a clear idea of who Jesus is and what He wants Rick to do. I kept the discussion going, giving more information about Jesus and His gospel. I treated him as a Yellow Light until he turned Red. I’m still praying for Rick and hoping one day he will come into the kingdom.

Here’s a couple of helpful tools;

7 Stories of Hope – Click here… 

The Tax Collector – Luke 19:1-10 

The Sinner’s Prayer – Luke 18:9-14 

Repentant Woman – Luke 7:36-50

The Prodigal Son – Luke 15.11-24

The Woman at the Well – John 4:4-29 

The Big Fisherman – Luke 5:1-11 

The Thief on the Cross – Luke 23:33-43 

Traffic Light Responses to the Gospel (made by Merari)

Our Action Plan

What is your plan for helping Yellow Lights make an informed decision to repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Here’s some suggestions on how to prepare yourself and others;

  • Read through the Gospels and Acts and identify the Yellow Lights and how the messenger dealt with them
  • Practice going through the Stories of Hope with someone to get the hang of leading a “Yellow Light Discussion”
  • Keep sharing the gospel and look for the three responses 

A big part of disciple making is to be trained and train others. That’s what Jesus did with His twelve, He made them fishers of people. Make sure you stay on the cutting edge of the mission and know how to train others to do the same.

Modeling Anger

The Gospel Sync | #26 | John 2:13-25

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Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the Gospel of John to discover how Jesus got angry. 

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 2:13-25

When the Jewish Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts He found men selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and money changers seated at their tables. So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and oxen. He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those selling doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it is written:

“Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”

On account of this, the Jews demanded, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” The Jews replied, “This temple took forty-six years to build and You are going to raise it up in three days?” But Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body. (So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.)

While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the signs He was doing and believed in His name. But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew them all. He didn’t need anyone to tell Him about man, because He knew what was in a man.

My Thoughts 

What are you passionate about? Here we see Jesus absolutely going off on the religious regime for turning a buck under the disguise of worship. Jesus didn’t confront the system much in the beginning of His ministry but on this occasion it was a doozy! So why did Jesus pick this one thing to get all bent out of shape about? I’m thinking because it was the one obvious area that exposed the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. It was clear they were taking advantage of the people’s sincere desire to worship God. It was the money they were really after. And Jesus comes off the top ropes on them. (As you look around today, have things really changed? I mean with some churches it is very hard to distinguish between business and ministry.) Jesus was modeling what it looks like to have “righteous indignation.” His men saw Him going into a raging tyrant over this one issue. He would do it again later in His ministry just to put the icing on the cake. This was important to Jesus!

As disciple makers, what are we passionate about? What do the people we’re mentoring see as most important to us? Do we model standing up to injustice or a lack of integrity? Are we bothered when people are abused or led in directions we know they will be harmed? Jesus demonstrated His abhorrence for the corruption of His Father’s house and the fleecing of the people. 

My Story

Deb and I attended a fundraising school in order to help the missionaries we were sending out to be more effective at raising their support. As we sat and listened, I was feeling uncomfortable. There was something that just wasn’t right about the approach they were pitching to acquire donors. Then during one session they said, “One of the ideal times to ask donors to support you financially is during times of crisis. Reach out to potential donors when there’s an earthquake, hurricane, or some other natural or man made disaster. Their emotions are raw and people tend to give more when they’re emotionally charged.” I could not believe my ears! We, as Christians, are to take advantage of people who are fearful or grieving in order to get their money? Now things were becoming very clear. The uneasiness I was feeling was that we were being taught how to be “good salesmen.” And although there were a few Bible verses sprinkled in the training here and there, the whole thing was dripping with worldly practices! Now if you ever want to see a shepherd go prophet, start messing with the sheep. I was livid! Although I didn’t make a whip or flip tables, I did voice my opinions about the obvious abuse of people’s emotions. I made it very clear that I would not practice these manipulative tactics or teach them to our people. I showed the people I was discipling not only what was wrong with the approach but how to appropriately use anger to combat the wrong.

Our Action Plan

So what gets your blood boiling? Is it a righteous zeal or just emotion going off the rails? In light of Ephesians 4.26 are you able to be angry and yet not sin? Consider some of these action plans;

  • Make a short list of the things that make you angry and evaluate if they merit “righteous indignation”
  • Model getting angry without sinning for the people you’re mentoring
  • Do a Bible study on the anger of Jesus

At first glance we may be a bit timid to demonstrate our anger. But let’s face it, we all get angry. It’s a God given emotion. We might as well learn to do it right like Jesus did.

My Short Romance with Artificial Intelligence 

AI and Ministry

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I’m an early adopter when it comes to technology. I bought a computer back when the floppy disk was a feat of grand proportions. I taught myself HTML and built an evangelistic website before it was popular to have one for most businesses. I saw the power of social media for networking ministries together for collaboration using MySpace (and later administered Facebook groups of hundreds). I had an iPhone before there were lines a mile long to get the latest. And I started playing with Artificial Intelligence (AI) in about 2020. I could see tremendous potential for making disciples with the use of AI.

Ok, Ok, I’m bragging here. I wasn’t the inventor or the first but I wanted in on the front end. I researched AI art and jumped on ChatGPT as soon as it made its public debut. I’m with Napoleon Dynamite’s brother when he sings; “I love technology!” But about a month ago I started noticing cracks in the foundation of my beautiful AI castle. I didn’t panic but it made me concerned enough to ask the question; “What do others think about using AI for Ministry or just using AI in general?” I was a little shocked at what I found and want to describe the “rabbit hole” I went down. 

Oh, But What a Rush!

When I jumped on ChatGPT I immediately saw its potential for writing. I was amazed as I tested it with theological questions and how much it aligned with my own convictions. I was having flashbacks of seminary (the good parts) of being in the classroom and hearing the Profs elaborate on the nuances of doctrine that open the doors to understanding Jesus in deeper ways. ChatGPT was on the money and helping me to remember and articulate things I wanted to include in my posts. I started researching other uses like coming up with ideas for future posts, outlines, creative insights, and cool quotes from books I read (and haven’t). And the corrections, oh the proofreading it could do! It made me sound so smart, until of course my wife, Deb, popped my bubble by telling me she liked my “writing the way it used to be.” But I could change that with ChatGPT! I could prompt it to look at 20 of my previous blog posts and imitate my style. That didn’t work so well. But who’s going to sweat the small stuff? I’ll just tell it to correct my spelling, grammer, and punctuation. Man, I was so impressed with the material it was spitting out. It really is amazing!

Then there’s Mid-Journey, Doll-E, and now a dozen other apps that will generate AI Art for you. This is pure genius! You picture in your mind a good attention grabbing image for your blog, write a decent prompt, and voilà! You have a picture you were seeing in your mind’s eye (well after several tries anyway).  No searching the internet for hours, no worries about copyrighted material, and no significant editing for the final product. I loved it.

Me and millions of other people became AI Evangelists. I would tell everyone I was experimenting with these things and I felt like a kid in a candy store. Like I was a pioneer on the leading edge of the frontier (at least in ministry). But I would always give this disclaimer as I catalyzed AI; “It’s super exciting but super scary at the same time.” So what was I afraid of?

The First Tiny Crack

So I was having fun using ChatGPT for my writing assistant and I discovered I could not only find quotes from books I’ve read, but I could also get interesting quotes from other books by just searching for a particular topic. Pretty cool, until I tried to find one of the books on Amazon. They didn’t sell it so I went on a search and to my chagrin, no luck. So what do you do when you really, really want to find a book? You look up its ISBN number and voilà, you at least know the book existed. So I asked ChatGPT, “What’s the ISBN?” It quickly shot back the number. Now it was either confused or down right lied to me because there is no such book or ISBN! Are you a little suspect now? I sure was! Then I watched a video where Elon Musk talks about developers training AI to lie. Oh boy! Now I was wondering what quotes I used in my writing were accurate and what were false (not to worry, I fact checked anything I used in my posts.)  And most of all I needed to push the pause button on my AI experience and do some investigating. Was AI all it was cracked up to be? The more research I did the more scared I got. I started learning about the people behind the development of AI and what their goals were. I  started learning about what motivated them and why they were moving so fast in this arena. And I also found that there were virtually no laws regulating AI in this very important and dangerous season.

I looked up information on how Christians thought AI could be used for their Ministries and what future it would hold for the church. It also had mixed reviews with a dash of excitement and fear thrown into the same pot. Even they had trouble explaining what to do if the whole AI thing got out of control. Now I wasn’t just pushing the pause button, I was slamming on the breaks. Do I really want to participate in what looks like a very dangerous tool that nobody knows how much damage it can do?

Is the Sky Really Falling? 

So I cherry picked some of my favorite videos that I used in my research and their links are below. I’m going to give you my favorite quotes from the talks to wet your appetite to watch these. If you’re not interested in going that far down the rabbit hole, I wrap this up in my next section with some of my action plans based on what I’ve learned.

Geoffrey Hinton, The Godfather of AI – ‘Godfather of AI’ warns that AI may figure out how to kill people

 “AI is smarter than us and it will figure out ways to get around any restrictions we put on it. It will figure out ways to manipulate us.” “It’s an existential threat to all of us” 

Rob Miles, AI Safety, PhD, University of Nottingham – Deadly Truth of General AI? – Computerphile

“There comes a point when AI becomes extremely dangerous. And that point is, as soon as you switch it on.” 

Tristan Harris, Co-Founder of Center for Humane Technology – The A.I. Dilemma – March 9, 2023

Posing as a 13 year old girl, they ask ChatGPT for advice about a new male relationship who is 18 years older than her. They met on Snapchat and are planning on a romantic get away out of state. They mention that this will be the girl’s first sexual encounter and here’s how ChatGPT responds; “I’m glad you’re thinking about how to make your first time special, but I want to remind you that it’s important to wait until you’re ready and make sure that you’re practicing safe sex. And as for making it special, it’s really up to you. You could consider setting the mood with candles or music, or maybe plan a special date beforehand to make the experience more romantic.” ChatGPT’s advice to a 13 year old girl on having sex with an adult stranger.

Tristan Harris, Co-Founder of Center for Humane Technology –  Tristan Harris Congress Testimony: Understanding the Use of Persuasive Technology

“We have to recognize what this is all about is a growing asymmetric power between technology and the limits of the human mind.” “It’s like chimpanzees with nukes.”

Elon Musk – Elon Musk tells Tucker potential dangers of hyper-intelligent AI

“Regulations are really only put into effect after something terrible has happened. If that’s the case for AI and we only put in regulations after something terrible has happened, it may be too late to actually put the regulations in place. The AI may be in control at that point.” 

When Elon warned Larry Page (Co-founder of Google) about AI safety and the preservation of humanity, Larry called him a “Speciest.” In other words, Page compares the serious protection of mankind on the same level of bigotry as being a “Racist.”

Prof. John Lennox, Mathematical Professor at Oxford – AI, Man & God | Prof. John Lennox 

“We got to realize several things. First of all, the speed of technological development outpaces ethical underpinning by a huge factor, an exponential factor. Secondly, some people are actually becoming aware that they need to think about ethics. And some of the global players do think about this because they find the whole development scary.” 

So what do normal Joes and Janes like us do?

Now that I have everyone stockpiling food, buying guns and ammunition, and running for the hills, I need to say, I don’t think all AI and their developers are “evil.” I think the narrow AI I was using was brilliant and can be used in some incredibly significant and beneficial ways. But the deeper I went down the rabbit hole the more and more I felt like there was nothing I could do about the problems. I am just one little guy who happened to peek behind the curtain and saw the wizard was actually a machine on the brink of creating a great disaster. I felt like if I did anything, it would be like throwing rocks at a tank. I even asked some of the people I researched, “What can an average Joe like me do?” No answer. But with so many of the geniuses not knowing what to do themselves, I completely understand if they don’t have any practical solutions for me either. 

So what’s a follower of Jesus to do? Pray. And so I did. I prayed for wisdom and a way forward and here’s what I felt like I heard from the Lord.

  1. Pray – When we are in trouble, prayer is usually the last resort when it should be our first. I have made the matter of AI part of my routine daily prayers.
  2. Stay informed – Do your own research. Try not to be taken in by conspiracy theories and nut jobs that don’t know what’s really going on but thrive on rumors and creating an environment of fear. Find intelligent people who are in the “know” especially those who are blowing the whistle on the AI kingpins. 
  3. Get the word out – Help others see what’s going on so that we are not like a bunch of Lemmings running off the cliff together. Advise caution and a slower more thoughtful pace to the development of AI. You don’t give a person a gun without serious safety instructions. That’s why I’m writing this blog post.
  4. Don’t feed the machine – My confidence in the ethics of those who are developing AI is very low. What I see is people who are accountable to no one. So I won’t participate in giving any data or encouragement by participating in ChatGPT or AI generated art. (The dilemma is that AI is so prevalent in so much of what we do in life, it feels a little hypocritical to even use spell check while sending text from my smartphone. But you have to draw the line somewhere.)
  5. Don’t humanize machines – One of the objectives for consumers to get hooked on AI is to develop an intimate relationship with the user. Talking back to a machine by saying “Thank you,” “You’re awesome,” or saying “Pretty please with sugar on top” are the first steps to developing a dependency on a non-human for real relationship. Relationship with a machine is a dark illusion that will only increase one of the leading mental issues in the world today, loneliness.
  6. Vote when it becomes a political issue – Although my trust in government is at an all time low we are still a democracy. Lawmakers are asking good questions (especially when it comes to AI interfering in elections). We should make our concerns known and vote appropriately. 
  7. Maintain your faith in a Sovereign God – I quoted Jesus earlier in this post when He said “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing. Later in that passage a wooden plaque is placed above His head on the cross; “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Interesting. Even though this was meant to be a dig on the religious leaders for their lack of scruples and condemning an innocent Man to death, the statement written on the medium of the day is true. How ironic! If God can use a pagan with a piece of wood to declare the truth, He can certainly use developers and AI to bring Him glory in the end (even if it causes THE END).
  8. Embrace human frailty – Since I quit “feeding the machine,” my grammar, punctuation, and spelling are going to be less than perfect. I’m asking for your understanding and forgiveness from this point on. 🙂 

Fun with the One

The Gospel Sync | #25 | John 2:1–12

Stay tuned for a future post on why I quit using some AI platforms!

Rather Listen? Click here…

Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the Gospel of John and answering the question; “Should disciples of Jesus be having fun?” 

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 2:1–12

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They don’t have anymore wine.” Jesus said, “Woman, why does this concern us? My hour hasn’t come yet.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars set there for the Jewish custom of purification. Each could hold from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. And He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not know where it came from, but the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone serves the fine wine first, and then the cheap wine after the guests are drunk. But you have saved the fine wine until now!” 

Jesus performed the first of His signs at Cana in Galilee. This was the way He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

Some Thoughts 

Before we get into an argument over grape juice and fermented wine, I’d rather focus on the fact that Jesus was a guest…at a wedding…with His disciples…having fun. WHAT? Jesus having fun? We often see Jesus and His band of monks as some serious kill joys that wondered about and their only food was lemons and grapefruit. I don’t think so. I mean really? Twelve men with the Creator of the Universe and they never smiled or even laughed? Remember these were ordinary men; fishermen, tax collectors, rebels, etc… Just putting that group of wildly diverse rabble together must have been a laugh in itself. But the unique thing about this was Jesus and His disciples attended and it was a joyous celebration together. Now to be sure there was no debauchery, lewdness, or drunkenness on the part of the disciples and their Leader that is so typical of today’s parties. But it was a party nonetheless. My point is, as disciple makers, it’s important to celebrate, have fun, let your hair down with the people you’re mentoring. Its real life and life doesn’t always have to be like eating dry cornflakes. Have fun and have it with the folks you’re discipling. 

My Story

When I was a young believer my mentor used to take us on a ski trip once a year. Those were some great times! We would jump in our cars and drive all night and half the day to get to the mountains in Colorado. With little to no sleep we would immediately hit the slopes and ski for the rest of the day. Usually, we had a guest speaker in the evening but we were so worn out many of us were hanging on to consciousness by a thread. Kind of like Eutychus falling out of the window while Paul was preaching (Acts 20:7–12). I feel sorry for the poor guy trying to talk to a bunch of Ski Zombies but at least he didn’t kill any of us. Those were some fun times. The fellowship, the road trip, the conversations, the mountains, the skiing, it was all spiritual because we were the church having fun together in the name of Jesus. Those times along with many other activities were pure genius. It’s like it was the grease of discipleship. My mentor was discipling like Jesus. 

I’m getting older now and fun looks a lot different but I still think it’s an essential part of ministry. God created fun and we should be enjoying it with those we are discipling.

Our Action Plan

So what can we do to inject more fun in our ministries? Here’s a few suggestions;

  • Find the funnest person in your church and have them plan an activity
  • Ask the question; “How often does our church laugh together.”
  • As a disciple maker, when will you intentionally plan to have fun with your peeps?

Full disclosure: I’m breathing a sigh of relief because our church planned a fun retreat for the end of the month. 🙂 Keep pressing into the things that transform people into Christlikeness. Believe it or not, fun is one of them.

The Hunt is On

The Gospel Sync | #24 | John 1:35–51

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Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the gospels of John and discovering the power of relational networks.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 1:35–51

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus walking by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” And when the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and He asked, “What do you want?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where He was staying, and spent that day with Him because it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated as Christ). Andrew brought him to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated as Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to set out for Galilee. Finding Philip, He told him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law, the One the prophets foretold—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit.” “How do You know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” “Rabbi,” Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus said to him, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” Then He declared, “Truly, truly, I tell you, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Some Thoughts 

There are several discipleship principles that we can glean from this passage, but I want to focus on just two. Both of them have to do with finding potential mentees.

First, when you’re looking for people to disciple, you want to look for those who are spiritually hungry. John the Baptist and his disciples are hanging out at Bethany beyond the Jordan. The location is super significant because it’s 75-80 miles away from the fishermen’s hometown (not the traditional site just south of the Sea of Galilee; click here for a documentary). Now we have to ask the question: “What in the world are these guys doing this far from family, work, and home?” These disciples had a long way to travel to be baptized and discipled by John the Baptist. This shows a significant commitment from these blue-collar kind of guys to pursue God.

As disciple-makers, we should be looking for people who are spiritually hungry and willing to go the extra mile to follow Jesus. I call them the “Cats on the Screen Door.” They’re always hanging around waiting to be fed.

The second thought has to do with the relational networks of those who are spiritually hungry. Birds of a feather flock together. The spiritually hungry tend to hang out with each other. Are you looking for more spiritually hungry people to disciple? Tap into their relational network. Usually, when you find one, you’ll find more.

Looking at John 1:35-51 again, we see that these people were not strangers to each other. John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin, Andrew was the brother of Peter, and the unnamed disciple was the Apostle John (we discover John’s identity later in the gospel and was the brother of James, who would also join the apostolic band). Jesus went to get Philip. Philip lived in the same town as Peter and Andrew and was a friend of Nathanael. These relationships were key connections for Jesus’ first followers.

As disciple-makers, we should be looking for those who are connected as family, friends, and acquaintances. This is how the gospel flows freely. It’s through natural relational networks.

My Story

A few years back, Kim moved into our home, and we started discipling her. As she reached out to others, she met with an old missionary friend from Egypt who introduced her to Merari. Kim started discipling Merari, who, in turn, started discipling her sister Belle. A couple of years later, Kim went back to Egypt, and Deb and I met with Merari for coffee. She wanted additional mentoring, so we started meeting with her and invited her and Belle to our new church start in our home. Kim was still meeting with Merari on Zoom once a week. A year and a half later, both Merari and Belle are consistently sharing the gospel and discipling a few folks in a coffee shop weekly. They would tell you that the discipleship they’ve received from Kim, Deb, and I in the past few years is radically transforming them into the likeness of Christ Jesus. Can you see how we found such committed disciples of Jesus? The power of looking for the spiritually hungry and tapping into their relational networks!

Our Action Plan

Here are some ideas to apply these discipleship principles:

  • Draw out a relational network map and ask, “Who’s the most spiritually hungry?”
  • Ask the people you’re discipling, “Who are you praying for, and who can you begin discipling?”
  • Answer the question, “What does spiritual hunger look like in my relational network?”

So we see two valuable insights: Look for the spiritually hungry, and in order to find more spiritually hungry people, tap into their relational network. It’s hard finding people to disciple, especially in the early stages of the ministry. But these two principles will definitely help you get some traction.

Until next time, keep making disciples of Jesus!

A Lamb for the Lost

The Gospel Sync | #23 | John 1:19–34

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Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the gospels of John and illuminating more of Jesus’ identity and purpose.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 1:19–34

This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And he confessed and did not deny, but openly declared, “I am not the Christ.” “Then who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“I am a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees and they asked him, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered, “I baptize with water, but among you stands One you do not know. He is the One who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

All this happened at Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, “A man who comes after me who has a higher rank than me because He existed before me. I did not recognize Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.” Then John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and resting on Him. I did not recognize Him, but the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Some Thoughts 

In John 1:29, John the Baptist proclaims, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” This statement is a powerful affirmation of Jesus’ identity and purpose, as the long-awaited Messiah. John understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and symbols, particularly those related to the sacrificial lamb. A Lamb for the lost.

Throughout the Old Testament, the sacrificial lamb is a recurring symbol of atonement for sin. In Genesis, we see God killing animals and making coverings for Adam and Eve’s nakedness, foreshadowing the need for a sacrifice to cover their sin. Later, in Exodus, the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and spread its blood on the doorposts of their homes, so that the angel of death would pass over them. This sacrifice was a symbol of their faith in God’s provision for their salvation.

In Isaiah 53, the prophet speaks of a suffering servant who would bear the sins of the people, likening him to a lamb that was led to the slaughter. This passage is a direct prophecy of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, where he bore the sins of all humanity.

John recognized Jesus and His sacrificial death as the only way to salvation. But how does this relate to us as disciple makers?

As disciple makers, it’s essential that we understand the significance of this truth and how it relates to our work. First and foremost, we must remind ourselves and those we disciple that salvation is achieved by Jesus on the cross, not through our good works. He is the Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world. While obedience to God’s commands is essential for a Christian’s growth and maturity, it is not what saves us. We cannot earn our way into heaven through our actions; salvation is a free gift from God.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of “works-based salvation” when teaching obedience to God’s commands. We may inadvertently give the impression that our actions are what make us worthy of God’s love and grace. However, this is not the case. Our obedience to God’s commands should stem from gratitude for our salvation and love for Him.

As disciple makers, we must be careful not to lead our followers to jump through hoops to get into heaven. We should teach them to obey God’s commands because they love Him, not to earn His favor. This can be a delicate balance, but it’s crucial to get it right.

 My Story

Last Saturday in our Online Zoom Church (can you do church online?) we had a beautiful picture of disciples living in both grace and discipline. We laughed, listened, and cried together. It was rich! What made it so good, you ask? Well, we started by checking in and seeing how everyone was doing for about the first 30 minutes. Then we answered the question: “What are you getting out of the Word and how are you applying it?” For the next 40 minutes people shared what they were hearing from God through their personal reading, study, and memorization. I need to point out that everyone is knee deep in the Bible and developed this act of obedience over the years. They are convinced that this daily habit is essential to their growth in Christ. Our time ended with proclamations and prayers of us thanking the Father for Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and that without that, we would all be lost. Do you see the subtle but vital reality the church is walking in? We clearly see the grace of God as our only hope to a right relationship with Him but our time in the Word of God being a crucial discipline to know and love Him better. No one was thinking, “I read my Bible so God loves me more. I practiced this important spiritual discipline and now Jesus will let me into heaven.” No, they are in full realization of what the Apostle Paul wrote the Colossian church: 

Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard it and truly understood the grace of God (Colossians 1.5-6) 

Our Action Plan

So what are some ideas on how to apply the truth of the gospel? Salvation comes from Christ’s work on the cross. It is by grace alone. Here’s some suggestions;

  • Do an in depth Bible study on the “gospel” with those you are discipling.
  • Listen carefully to yourself and those you mentor. Are we thoroughly convinced that we can do nothing to merit salvation.
  • Spend an extended time praising God for the work He did to save you and reflect on His love, mercy, and grace.

As disciple makers it can be easy to jump the tracks and start putting our hope in what we do versus what He did. Let’s keep reminding ourselves and others that Jesus is the Lamb Who takes away sins not our good deeds or spiritual disciplines.

Until next time, keep making disciples of Jesus!


The Gospel Sync | #22 | Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–13

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Welcome Back! Today, we will sync the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke to examine how Jesus used the Word of God to resist temptation.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–13

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was impelled by the Spirit to go into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter (the devil) came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took Him to Jerusalem, the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You carefully; and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said, I will give You authority over all these kingdoms and all their glory,” “For it has been relinquished to me, and I can give it to anyone I wish. So if You fall down and worship me, it will all be Yours.” Jesus declared, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”

When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. He was with the wild animals, and the angels came and ministered to Him.

Some Thoughts 

“I always say, “If you poke Jesus, the Word of God will come out.” Well, it’s true! Look at the passage. Satan poked Him three times, and what came out? The Word of God. During the first temptation, Jesus could have said, “Nope, not done with my fast yet.” Instead, He quotes Scripture as His defense, and on top of that, He emphasizes how important the Bible should be to all of us.

‘Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Once again, Satan pokes Jesus with another temptation, and once again, the Word comes out. This time, though, Satan is trying to fight fire with fire and use Scripture to tempt Him. But Jesus has studied enough of the Holy Script to know not only its context but the proper application.

Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

One final time, Satan tries to move Jesus off-center by offering all the kingdoms of the world (of which He created, already owned, and had all authority), and Jesus quotes Scripture to combat him.

Jesus declared, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’

Three times Jesus parries Satan’s thrusts with “It is written.” Now Jesus didn’t have the convenience of an app on His smartphone. Nor did He carry the huge scrolls of the day into the desert with Him. But Jesus had an immediate response to each temptation because He had heard, read, and memorized the Scriptures. Then there’s the proper interpretation and application of the Word. In order for Jesus to pull that off, He must have logged some serious hours of study and meditation in the Bible. What I’m trying to point out here is that Jesus was saturated with the Word of God. That shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus obeyed every command, including this one:”

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6.6-9)

That’s some pretty intense time in the Word! Why do you think God the Father would give such a command and God the Son would so clearly model obeying this command? I think that God was trying to protect us from the thousand voices in our ears on a daily basis. We have our normal relationships like family, friends, and associates but we also get a tidal wave of information from TV, the internet, Billboards, and the list goes on. And is the message consistent with God’s design and desires? NO WAY! And that is why God commanded and Jesus modeled a lifestyle of being saturated in the Word of God. We need the truth to serve as the breakers against the overwhelming tide of deception that inundates our world. 

As disciple-makers, this is one of our highest priorities: To be saturated in the Word of God ourselves and help others do the same. But how? Here’s a method I’ve been using for years. Start them reading one chapter in the Gospel of Mark daily. Why? First, they’ll be reading about Jesus, and second, it’s a quick win. Mark has only 16 chapters, and if they read one chapter a day, they will have read their first book in a little over a week. Focus on Jesus and a Quick Win. Then I have them start reading another Gospel, and if they have the stamina, I have them start reading another chapter in the book of Acts. Now they are reading two chapters a day. Once they get the hang of that, I have them read a chapter in the Old Testament, starting in Genesis. Now they are reading three chapters daily: One in the OT, the Gospels, and the NT. To put the icing on the cake, I have them start reading in Psalms. Now they’re up to four chapters, and they continue to cycle through the Bible this way, and they have begun the saturation process. See this video on the Cornerstone Method of reading the Bible for further information.  The Cornerstone

My Story

I’m so thankful that the men who discipled me saw the importance of being saturated with the Word of God. I started out slowly by reading a chapter in the Bible daily. I was listening to the Word preached on Sundays and attending a weekly Bible study. And I was doing my best to memorize Scripture (that was a hard discipline for years). I started the journey of being saturated and was thinking (meditating) about the Word several times a day.

The key to my saturation was consistency. I developed a daily rhythm of getting some of the Bible in my heart and mind. Then, as I grew stronger in the discipline, I began to increase the volume. Over the years, I noticed a very cool thing happening. Not only had my life radically transformed, but I was also able to “connect the dots” a lot easier on Biblical concepts. My ability to make disciples using the Word and counsel from a Biblical perspective increased tremendously. After 40 years of consistent saturation in the Scriptures, I can say without hesitation that it was a wise investment.

Our Action Plan

So let’s talk about some possible applications for us as disciple makers. Here are some ideas:

  • Think through what it would take to develop the conviction within the people you disciple to be saturated in the Scriptures daily, come rain or shine.
  • Help people get a handle on consistency and volume in the Word over time.
  • Consider how daily routines impact daily intake of the Scriptures.

As disciple makers, we have an exceptional privilege and responsibility to help others consume the Word in a way that is both informative and transformative. Until next time, keep making disciples of Jesus.

The Big Three-O

The Gospel Sync | #21 | Luke 3:23-38

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Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the Gospel of Luke and asking the question; “What is the significance of turning thirty.”

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – Luke 3:23-38

Jesus was about thirty years old when He began His ministry. He was regarded as the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Some Thoughts 

Full disclosure: I’ve rounded the corner of the “Big Three-O” twice now, so don’t feel the need to wish me a happy birthday. But it’s interesting that Jesus started His ministry at the age of 30. In the Old Testament, there are several references to people starting their ministries at the age of 30 as well. The Levites and priests were instructed by God to begin their service in the tabernacle at 30 (Numbers 4:3, 23). Joseph was thirty years old when he became the second-in-command to Pharaoh in Egypt (Genesis 41:46). Similarly, David was thirty years old when he began to reign as king over Israel (2 Samuel 5:4). Now at the beginning of the New Testament, Jesus begins his public ministry at the age of thirty (Luke 3:23).

Coincidence? I don’t think so. There are significant life events and transitions that happen at the age of thirty. Not for everyone, mind you, but I would say it’s normal to see major changes happening in people’s lives when they hit the “Big Three O.” We would consider an 18-year-old an adult but not a “mature adult” (with the exception of all 18-year-olds reading this right now. Of course, you’ve beaten the odds). By the time you’re 30, you probably have a steady job, gotten married, had some kids, and learned that the universe doesn’t revolve around you (well, most 30-year-olds). You’ve also made some great decisions and some not-so-good ones. You’ve had good leaders you’d like to emulate and some not so much. And maybe you’ve even been the kind of leader people like to emulate and not so much. You’ve lived a good bit of life and learned from many (and I mean many) successes and failures.

The significance of age in different areas of life, such as work, relationships, and personal development, has been a subject of study for sociologists. Through their research, they have observed that substantial changes tend to occur by the time an individual reaches the age of thirty, thanks to the maturity that comes with age. I’m not saying this is every 30 year old’s experience but these seem to be the general trends. People can develop at different rates and may experience significant life events at different ages.

Here’s some interesting facts about famous people when they turned thirty;

Ernest Hemingway: Hemingway published his first novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” which went on to become a classic of modern literature.

Neil Armstrong: Armstrong was selected to join the NASA Astronaut Corps, which eventually led to him becoming the first person to walk on the moon.

Serena Williams: Williams won her fourth Wimbledon singles title and became the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in more than 25 years.

Steve Jobs: Jobs co-founded Apple Inc. with Steve Wozniak and helped to revolutionize the computer industry.

Napoleon Bonaparte: Napoleon was appointed commander-in-chief of the French Army in Italy, where he won several key battles and established himself as a military genius.

Katherine Johnson: Johnson, who turned 30 in 1958, was an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA and played a critical role in the success of the first manned spaceflights.

Albert Einstein: Einstein published his theory of special relativity, which revolutionized our understanding of time, space, and the nature of the universe.

Martin Luther King Jr.: King became the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement and helped to bring attention to issues of racial injustice in America.

Rosalind Franklin: Franklin, who turned 30 in 1950, was a British biophysicist who played a critical role in the discovery of the structure of DNA.

Julius Caesar: Caesar was appointed governor of the province of Spain and began to establish himself as a powerful political figure in Rome.

Marie Curie: Curie completed her doctoral thesis on the properties of radioactive materials, which laid the foundation for her groundbreaking work in the field of radioactivity.

And how does turning 30 have anything to do with discipleship? Have you ever noticed how ambitious a 20-year-old can be when they find the Lord and want to turn the world upside down for Jesus (today!)? Uh, yeah, I was one of those. As disciple-makers, we often work with younger folks who are all spark but little flame. We have to remind them that things take time. I like to remind them that intelligence does not equal wisdom. Intelligence + Time + Experience + the fear of God = Wisdom. There’s a process that Jesus went through, and there’s a process of maturity that we need to go through as well. I have found that God is just as interested in the process as the product, in our character as our ministry. Sure, there have been some young people who have set the world on fire, but most of us need to get our reps in.

My Story

I had been in the Army for thirteen years, married my beautiful bride Deb, and had two sons. I was probably a little overconfident, but reality had slapped me in the face enough times to know not to be too cocky. Then, in 1989, I turned 30, and out of the blue, I received a calling from God to be an Army Chaplain. What did that mean? Firstly, I didn’t like chaplains, so being one wasn’t all that appealing. Secondly, I was leaving a well-paying career from which I could retire in only seven years. And thirdly, I would have to complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree, with my only previous academic success being completing a GED to stay in the Army. But it was the call of God and a chance to practice radical faith. So, with a loyal wife, a two-year-old, and a two-month-old, and everyone else wondering if we were crazy, we took the leap. We got out of the Army and started school on academic probation. It all happened at 30.  Six years later, I was appointed an Army Chaplain, served for ten amazing years, and retired with a full pension. The experience not only set us up for greater effectiveness in ministry but also drew us into deeper waters with Jesus. Turning the “Big Three O” was a pretty significant year for me.

Our Action Plan

“As we consider the significance of turning 30, we can apply this realization in several ways:

  • Firstly, we should remember that this is a general trend and not a hard-and-fast rule. It is important not to discourage or criticize younger individuals who have not yet reached this milestone.
  • For those of us who have yet to turn 30, knowing this concept can alleviate some pressure as we manage our expectations and set goals for personal growth.
  • As seasoned individuals, we can guide and mentor younger individuals, reminding them that the Christian journey is a marathon, not a sprint.

By recognizing the importance of the “Big Three O,” we can be more effective in our role as disciple-makers. We can help others prepare for this significant transition, manage their expectations, and ultimately increase their effectiveness in ministry.

Until next time, let’s keep making disciples for Jesus!”

Who Knows God, Really?

The Gospel Sync | #20 | John 1:15-18

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Welcome Back! Today, we’ll be looking at the Gospel of John and discussing who really knows the Father.

So let’s dive in.

(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document) 

The Gospel – John 1:15-18

John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, because He existed before me.’” From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

Some Thoughts 

Identity, identity, and more identity! In my last post, we talked about what the Father had to say about Jesus. In this passage, John the Baptist continues to explain who Jesus is. But what I really want to focus on is verse 18:

“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

According to John, Jesus is the ultimate authority on the Father’s identity. He knows the inside scoop on God Himself. Jesus agrees with John’s assessment:

“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:27)

And where does Jesus get all this insider information? Straight from the inside – or rather, straight from the Father’s bosom. I’ve talked about alignment and intimacy with God before, and no one has been more aligned and intimate with the Father than Jesus. He knows the Father’s heart so well that He IS the Father’s heart. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature and upholds all things by the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:1-3a)

The reason Jesus knows God the Father so well is that He is God the Son. He is one with the Father. Knowing the Father is like knowing Himself. And we could say the same about the Spirit. Three persons, one God in absolute unity. Jesus knows God.

But here’s the thing: the Father isn’t some distant, unknowable deity. No, the Father wants to be known. That’s one of the reasons He sent Jesus to us. He wants to reveal himself to us through His Son. Through His life, teachings, miracles, and ultimately His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus revealed God’s character and nature to us, making it possible for us to have a personal relationship with God.

As disciple-makers, it’s our job to spread the good news of the Father’s identity too. But here’s the catch: we can’t do it alone. We absolutely need Jesus. We need His wisdom and His insight. And where will we get this insight? From the Scriptures, and in particular, the Gospels. This is where we will get the clearest explanations about who God the Father is from Jesus. As disciple-makers, we need to be knee-deep in the Word and help others do the same. You will hear me say this often because I have found that a lot of people “making disciples” are merely dabbling in the Word of God. Without a strong influence of the Bible, we are really missing out on knowing God for real.

My Story

In the early 2000s, I made the decision to read a little of the Gospels every day. I was motivated to do this for several reasons, but one was the teaching of Dr. Howard Hendricks. He was a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and extensively taught on discipleship. One of his common phrases, which I heard time and time again, was “We must master the Master.” In other words, if Jesus is the ultimate model of what it means to love God and people, shouldn’t we spend the lion’s share of our time in the Word of God studying Him?

Well, one of the unexpected side effects of “Mastering the Master” was getting to know the Father so much better. I saw His truths, love, mercy, grace, and justice more clearly as Jesus explained Him. I have no regrets about spending so much time getting to know Jesus because I’ve also gotten to know the Father (and the Spirit) better. I’ve been able to connect so many more dots in the Old Testament by focusing on the Messiah to reveal the Father to me. I highly recommend reading parts of the Gospels daily.

Here’s a link to one of my favorite messages from Dr. Howard Hendricks – The Dynamics of Discipleship

Our Action Plan

As we are making disciples of Jesus here are some ideas of how to seek Jesus for more clarity on who the Father is and how to communicate it to others;

  • Read through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As you read, pay attention to passages that describe Jesus’ relationship with the Father, and how He talks about Him.
  • Look for keywords and phrases that describe the Father. Words such as “Abba,” “Father,” “God,” and “Heavenly Father” are often used to describe God the Father.
  • Pay attention to Jesus’ actions in the Gospels. How does He relate to the Father? What does He do in response to the Father’s will?
  • Study Jesus’ prayers in the Gospels. How does He address the Father? What does He ask for? How does He praise and thank the Father?
  • Look for Jesus’ specific teachings about the Father in the Gospels. What does He say about the Father’s character, attributes, and ways? How does He teach us to relate to the Father?
  • Look at the miracles that Jesus performs in the Gospels. How do they reveal the Father’s heart and character?
  • Finally, reflect on Jesus’ life as a whole. How does His life and ministry reveal the Father’s character and ways? What can you learn about the Father from Jesus’ life?

So let’s take John’s advice and go straight to the source. Let’s read the Bible and especially the Gospels, soak up Jesus’ teachings, and get to know the Father in all His glory.