Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: disciples

Flashback Favorite - My first assignment

My first assignment
originally posted on April 20, 2016

Wait, I’m going to teach what?

That was my mental reaction to my first teaching assignment from my mentor, Joe.

Our mentor-protégé relationship began when he was teaching a Sunday School class and had asked if anyone was interested in team-teaching with him.  I was eager to teach, but I knew that I had to learn how to better handle the Scriptures if I was going to take on the responsibility of teaching God’s Word to others.  Joe pointed me toward Howard Hendricks’s Living by the Book and, with his guidance, I began to learn how to Observe, Interpret, and then Apply the Bible.

I figured that my first teaching lesson would cover one of the passages I had just learned from…instead, Joe said that my first teaching experience would come from teaching the class how to study the Bible, like I had just learned.  I was instantly nervous and gave Joe a weak “You sure about this?”.  But he assured me that this was the best topic for me to start with.

I profusely prayed over every lesson.  I did my best to communicate the three steps, as well as provide good examples and practice exercises – some lessons went well; others didn’t feel like they went anywhere.  To anyone who was in those first classes of mine, I say thank you for your patience!  That experience was a huge step for me and my growth – both in my relationship with God, as well as in learning how to organize and teach.  It certainly helped to have my mentor’s example, his directions, and his confidence in me.

Reading through the gospels, we find that Jesus did something similar with his protégés:

Matthew 9:35-10:1
Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd.  The He said to His disciples,

“The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.  Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Summoning His 12 disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness.

When Jesus told them to pray that the Father would send out workers to reach the people of Israel, I’m sure they agreed that would be a good thing to do…but then Jesus turns around and tells them that it is time for them to go out and participate in the harvest, by doing what they had only previously watched Jesus do!  Imagine everything that must have been going through their minds – anticipation, nervousness, excitement, tension?  Trust me, it was all those and then some.

Matthew 10:5-8
Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town.  Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As you go announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons.  You have received free of charge; give free of charge.”

Notice how Jesus gave them parameters and direction for their first assignment.  They weren’t supposed to go outside of Israel.  They had a very specific message to proclaim.  They were also given authority to do what Jesus did – heal, raise the dead, cleanse, and drive out demons – and they were not to charge the people for these acts, just as Jesus hadn’t charged anyone.

The disciples would eventually be ready for the larger assignment of the Great Commission, where they were instructed to go make disciples of people from all nations.  They were not ready for that yet, though.  The disciples were still going to do what they had seen Jesus do, but their first assignment was on a much smaller scale.

As a mentor, we need to give our protégé assignments that will begin to stretch them now and incrementally prepare them for later.  On the flip side, when our mentor gives us an assignment that seems like a very large leap, we need to trust them. 

Looking back, it was that first assignment that propelled me closer to God and sharpened my teaching ability.  Joe was making sure that I was not going to be just another teacher who can only feed people The Word, but he wanted me to be able to show others how to feed themselves.  Following through on that first assignment, despite how rough it may have been on me and/or the class, has paid many dividends over the years since.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Flashback Favorite - Joe Rheney has relocated to Heaven

I can’t believe that it’s been a year.

What a day that was, too.  The funeral was a wonderful representation of the man himself.  People from all walks of life, who wouldn’t have known each other if not for Joe, came together to celebrate and remember.  There were stories, smiles, unity in grief, and hope-filled relief in knowing Joe had finally reached his goal, to be in the presence of his Creator, face-to-face with Jesus.

Joe would have approved of the service, but only for one reason: the clear, good-news message of Jesus Christ was shared.  Over the years, he had lamented to me several times that the best use of a funeral service was to reach people with Christ’s offer of eternal life while they thinking about the big topics of life, death, purpose, and legacy.  The importance of this message, and its life-changing impact, were on full display during the event.

The verses that helped Joe, as a freshman at the University of Georgia, see his need for Jesus came from a letter written by the Apostle John:

1 John 5:11-13
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  The one who has the Son has life.  The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

As much as January 11, 2018 was a day of rejoicing and remembrance, it was under a shadow of mourning and grief.  I still miss him, terribly.  But a reunion is coming – either in Heaven or at the Rapture, whichever comes first. The next time I see him, there will only be joy and gratefulness – all because Jesus paid the price for our sins and gave eternal life to anyone who would accept His offer.

As Joe often said: I’ll see you there, or in the air!

Joe Rheney has relocated to Heaven
originally posted on January 11, 2018

On December 29, 2017, Joe Rheney, my father in the faith and the originator of THE WORD, passed on into Heaven.  Today, January 11th, he will be buried with military honors.  His family and friends have gathered to honor the man who loved and shared Jesus with countless people.  I have the double honor of being a pallbearer and speaking at his funeral.  Below is the text of my speech:

I first me Joe in 2004.  By anyone’s standards, he had already lived a successful, fulfilling life.  He had honorably served his country.  He had been married to his sweetheart for decades.  They had raised a son who was also married, with his own honorable service and thriving career, and they had grandkids.  Retirement was near, and he was entering the time of life when most everyone looks forward to putting their feet up and taking it easy.

I was at the other end of the spectrum.  25.  Married for almost 5 years.  The father of two young boys.  Just starting to get traction in my career.  And more naïve than I realized.

Joe was teaching Sunday School at Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown, WV, and my wife and I regularly attended his class.  One day, as the class time was wrapping up, he stated that the burden of teaching was too much for him to do alone and asked if anyone would be interested in teaching with him.  Now I had grown up in the church, and while I enjoyed tutoring and teaching during my schooling and for my job, I knew I was unprepared to stand in front of a class and teach the Bible.  However, I felt prompted to tell him, very specifically, “I would like to help you teach, but first I need to learn to study.” 

Looking back, this was clearly the Holy Spirit making sure I said the right thing, at the right time to start our relationship.  Joe began coaching me through the process of Observing, Interpreting, and Applying Scripture.  For nearly 9 years, Joe was my father in the faith – he mentored me through many of life’s early storms – ones that I didn’t even know were on the horizon.

He didn’t have to take me under his wing.  No one would have blamed him for coasting the rest of his years.  But Joe knew the value of mentoring and training the next generation of disciples.  He was the one who taught me how to study the Bible.  He taught me how to love my wife when she was rather unlovable or when I was stubborn (or when both were happening).  He constantly stressed the importance of being a Godly example for my boys, and making sure they saw me do Godly things.  He warned me about the temptations that arise when traveling for work.  My wife deals with some of the same health issues his wife has…while he couldn’t tell me how to fix them, he helped me love her and support her as she went through it.

Joe was a great mentor because he lived all these things.  He would smile that sly grin and tell me, “I’ve already made the mistakes.  If you listen you me, you won’t have to make them too.” 

I eagerly played the part of Timothy while he played the part of Paul.  Timothy was an outsider with a good reputation, potential, but someone in need of a mentor.  The Apostle Paul took him under his wing and guided him to become his eventual replacement.  Paul told Timothy do the same.  In one of his letters, Paul said, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). 

It wasn’t just me, either.  I have encountered many others over the years that refer to Joe as “my mentor”.  His openness and eternity-focused example resonated with so many.  Another one of the Apostle Paul’s protégés was a young man named Titus.  And when Titus died, his successor in the ministry referred to him as “the exalted echo of Paul’s own voice”.

As I have told friends and family of Joe’s passing on to Heaven, I have struggled with conveying everything that he meant to me, everything that he taught me, and everything did for me.  You and I would have to sit down and talk for days if I were to really attempt it.  The best way I’ve been able to quickly communicate his impact on my life is to say, “If you know me, then you’ve met him.”  I would not be the man I am today if not for his voice in my life.  Joe reflected Jesus so well that it rubbed off on anyone who spent time with him.  And that’s what Christian discipleship looks like.  This is what Jesus meant when He gave His disciples The Great Commission.  We teach the next generation how to connect with God.  We partner with them, so they learn how to partner with God.  In the end, the protégé reflects his mentor, but they both have been reflecting Jesus all along.  That is how the world will see Jesus.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Knowing God without seeing Him

My time working for a company once coincided with the last years of the company’s founder being involved in the operation.  He and a friend had started the business over 40 years previous to my arrival. 

I never saw him while at work, our paths never crossed.  I was second shift in the QC lab, and he was managing the Executive Board.  However, within my first few years on the job, while at a dedication event for Chestnut Mountain Ranch, I saw him from a distance.  I was afraid to walk up and awkwardly introduce myself, and I rationalized my fear by thinking that my position was too low to justify me striking up a conversation out of the blue.

Although I never had another chance to speak with him, I did get to know him.  The longer I worked at the company, the more I found that nearly everyone knew Mike.  In previous years, he had purposefully worked closely with many of his employees.  Those who worked with him had adopted his ethos for excellent work and treating your workers with excellence.  I came to know the standards and expectations of the company because the founder had instilled his methods and expectations on those who would pass down those patterns of behavior to me.

On a much larger scale, something similar has happened in God’s family.  In the books referred to as “The Gospels”, we have four separate, but highly complementary, records of Jesus’ life.  John, the youngest of all Jesus’ disciples, would record Jesus telling the disciples at the Passover meal:

John 13:34-35
I give you a new command: Love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.

How will others know that we are followers of Jesus?  It’s not because of the money we make, the car we drive, or the education we have.  We are identified as disciples based upon how we love other believers.

Did you know that Jesus even prayed for us modern-day believers?  That’s right, Jesus specifically mentions us – you and me – during His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He was crucified.  John also recorded this:

John 17:20-21
I pray not only for [the disciples], but also for those who believe in Me through their word.  May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.  May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe you sent Me.

Jesus’ words obviously stuck with John.  Many years after Jesus had ascended into Heaven, here’s what John passed on about Jesus in a letter he wrote to other believers…ones who had never met Jesus:

1 John 4:9-12
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His one and only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.  No one has ever seen God.  If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is made complete in us.

Notice a theme?  John carried on Jesus’ instruction, that God cares how we love one another, because our love is a reflection of His.  How well we love each other demonstrates how closely we are walking with Him…and as that kind of love is different from what the world offers as love, everyone will know that we are His disciples.

As the global church of believers – those who trust in Jesus for eternal life – we have many ways to get to know our Savior.  Start with what John tells us – choose to love your fellow believers.  Listen to others talk about their relationship with Him.  When we read Scripture, we find out who He is and what He is like.  We can pray and talk directly to Him.

Short of the rapture happening in our lifetime, we won’t meet Jesus face-to-face until we’re on the other side.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t know Him now.  We haven’t missed our chance.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Joe Rheney has relocated to Heaven

On December 29, 2017, Joe Rheney, my father in the faith and the originator of THE WORD, passed on into Heaven.  Today, January 11th, he will be buried with military honors.  His family and friends have gathered to honor the man who loved and shared Jesus with countless people.  I have the double honor of being a pallbearer and speaking at his funeral.  Below is the text of my speech:

I first me Joe in 2004.  By anyone’s standards, he had already lived a successful, fulfilling life.  He had honorably served his country.  He had been married to his sweetheart for decades.  They had raised a son who was also married, with his own honorable service and thriving career, and they had grandkids.  Retirement was near, and he was entering the time of life when most everyone looks forward to putting their feet up and taking it easy.

I was at the other end of the spectrum.  25.  Married for almost 5 years.  The father of two young boys.  Just starting to get traction in my career.  And more naïve than I realized.

Joe was teaching Sunday School at Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown, WV, and my wife and I regularly attended his class.  One day, as the class time was wrapping up, he stated that the burden of teaching was too much for him to do alone and asked if anyone would be interested in teaching with him.  Now I had grown up in the church, and while I enjoyed tutoring and teaching during my schooling and for my job, I knew I was unprepared to stand in front of a class and teach the Bible.  However, I felt prompted to tell him, very specifically, “I would like to help you teach, but first I need to learn to study.” 

Looking back, this was clearly the Holy Spirit making sure I said the right thing, at the right time to start our relationship.  Joe began coaching me through the process of Observing, Interpreting, and Applying Scripture.  For nearly 9 years, Joe was my father in the faith – he mentored me through many of life’s early storms – ones that I didn’t even know were on the horizon.

He didn’t have to take me under his wing.  No one would have blamed him for coasting the rest of his years.  But Joe knew the value of mentoring and training the next generation of disciples.  He was the one who taught me how to study the Bible.  He taught me how to love my wife when she was rather unlovable or when I was stubborn (or when both were happening).  He constantly stressed the importance of being a Godly example for my boys, and making sure they saw me do Godly things.  He warned me about the temptations that arise when traveling for work.  My wife deals with some of the same health issues his wife has…while he couldn’t tell me how to fix them, he helped me love her and support her as she went through it.

Joe was a great mentor because he lived all these things.  He would smile that sly grin and tell me, “I’ve already made the mistakes.  If you listen you me, you won’t have to make them too.” 

I eagerly played the part of Timothy while he played the part of Paul.  Timothy was an outsider with a good reputation, potential, but someone in need of a mentor.  The Apostle Paul took him under his wing and guided him to become his eventual replacement.  Paul told Timothy do the same.  In one of his letters, Paul said, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). 

It wasn’t just me, either.  I have encountered many others over the years that refer to Joe as “my mentor”.  His openness and eternity-focused example resonated with so many.  Another one of the Apostle Paul’s protégés was a young man named Titus.  And when Titus died, his successor in the ministry referred to him as “the exalted echo of Paul’s own voice”.

As I have told friends and family of Joe’s passing on to Heaven, I have struggled with conveying everything that he meant to me, everything that he taught me, and everything did for me.  You and I would have to sit down and talk for days if I were to really attempt it.  The best way I’ve been able to quickly communicate his impact on my life is to say, “If you know me, then you’ve met him.”  I would not be the man I am today if not for his voice in my life.  Joe reflected Jesus so well that it rubbed off on anyone who spent time with him.  And that’s what Christian discipleship looks like.  This is what Jesus meant when He gave His disciples The Great Commission.  We teach the next generation how to connect with God.  We partner with them, so they learn how to partner with God.  In the end, the protégé reflects his mentor, but they both have been reflecting Jesus all along.  That is how the world will see Jesus.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

An unexpected example

Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, we often find His disciples in an ego-driven discussion, debating which one of them was going to be “the greatest” in Jesus’ kingdom.  On His last night, Jesus gave them a powerful example of what a “great” leader does.

John 13:1, 4-5
Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father.  Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end…So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself.  Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.

I’m certain you could have heard a pin drop.  The normal hustle and bustle of conversation and movement as 13 guys reclined at a low table to eat the Passover meal would have come to a standstill when Jesus picked up the basin and the towel.

Does your state’s Governor handle coat check duty at the annual Governor’s ball?  Does your company’s CEO shine your shoes at the annual budgeting meeting?  Of course not.  So why would the Messiah – at the remembrance meal that foretold His coming – wash the filthy, sweaty, gnarled feet of twelve grown men, all of whom were subordinate to Him?

John 13:12-17
When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them,

“Do you know what I have done for you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord.  This is well said, for I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.”

“I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

The disciples had spent the last three years trying to learn everything they could from Jesus, in order that they might one day be just like Him.  The one who ended up most like Jesus, would be “the greatest” disciple, with all the authority and privilege that would come with that distinction. 

However, Jesus’ actions didn’t negate His title, position, or authority.  Since the disciples had accepted Jesus as their Teacher and Lord, how could they refuse to humble themselves and serve in the menial tasks, like what He had just performed?

As a mentor, we too need to provide a tangible example to our protégé.  Real life examples leave a mark like nothing else can.  Verbal instruction is the foundation for learning and developing others, but they will never forget the example of the time you stepped down and washed their feet.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

My first assignment

Wait, I’m going to teach what?

That was my mental reaction to my first teaching assignment from my mentor, Joe.

Our mentor-protégé relationship began when he was teaching a Sunday School class and had asked if anyone was interested in team-teaching with him.  I was eager to teach, but I knew that I had to learn how to better handle the Scriptures if I was going to take on the responsibility of teaching God’s Word to others.  Joe pointed me toward Howard Hendricks’s Living by the Book and, with his guidance, I began to learn how to Observe, Interpret, and then Apply the Bible.

I figured that my first teaching lesson would cover one of the passages I had just learned from…instead, Joe said that my first teaching experience would come from teaching the class how to study the Bible, like I had just learned.  I was instantly nervous and gave Joe a weak “You sure about this?”.  But he assured me that this was the best topic for me to start with.

I profusely prayed over every lesson.  I did my best to communicate the three steps, as well as provide good examples and practice exercises – some lessons went well; others didn’t feel like they went anywhere.  To anyone who was in those first classes of mine, I say thank you for your patience!  That experience was a huge step for me and my growth – both in my relationship with God, as well as in learning how to organize and teach.  It certainly helped to have my mentor’s example, his directions, and his confidence in me.

Reading through the gospels, we find that Jesus did something similar with his protégés:

Matthew 9:35-10:1
Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd.  The He said to His disciples,

“The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.  Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Summoning His 12 disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness.

When Jesus told them to pray that the Father would send out workers to reach the people of Israel, I’m sure they agreed that would be a good thing to do…but then Jesus turns around and tells them that it is time for them to go out and participate in the harvest, by doing what they had only previously watched Jesus do!  Imagine everything that must have been going through their minds – anticipation, nervousness, excitement, tension?  Trust me, it was all those and then some.

Matthew 10:5-8
Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town.  Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As you go announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons.  You have received free of charge; give free of charge.”

Notice how Jesus gave them parameters and direction for their first assignment.  They weren’t supposed to go outside of Israel.  They had a very specific message to proclaim.  They were also given authority to do what Jesus did – heal, raise the dead, cleanse, and drive out demons – and they were not to charge the people for these acts, just as Jesus hadn’t charged anyone.

The disciples would eventually be ready for the larger assignment of the Great Commission, where they were instructed to go make disciples of people from all nations.  They were not ready for that yet, though.  The disciples were still going to do what they had seen Jesus do, but their first assignment was on a much smaller scale.

As a mentor, we need to give our protégé assignments that will begin to stretch them now and incrementally prepare them for later.  On the flip side, when our mentor gives us an assignment that seems like a very large leap, we need to trust them. 

Looking back, it was that first assignment that propelled me closer to God and sharpened my teaching ability.  Joe was making sure that I was not going to be just another teacher who can only feed people The Word, but he wanted me to be able to show others how to feed themselves.  Following through on that first assignment, despite how rough it may have been on me and/or the class, has paid many dividends over the years since.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Who can be mentored?

We really don’t know a lot about what the disciples were doing before they encountered Jesus.  If any of the disciples had been a part of a prominent family, or politically connected, or a member of the religious ruling class…you would think that the gospel writers would have brought that up.  However, given that Jesus was doing something new on earth, then it stands to reason that He would not have wanted his disciples to have any previous connections to the leading human institutions of the time.

The only community education for a Jewish child was to learn the Torah and impress a Rabbi enough for him to take the child on as his personal disciple.  If a Jewish child didn’t make the cut to continue up the religious school ranks, they were sent home to learn the family trade. 

We do know that when Jesus called Andrew, Peter, James, and John, they all were fishermen.  This job required no formal education, only on-the-job training.  So clearly, they hadn’t been picked by any Rabbi or Pharisee.  Matthew is introduced as a tax collector.  This was a job working for the hated Romans.  Tax collectors were generally known as cheaters, liars, and turncoats against their kinsmen.  They were barely tolerated in Jewish society.  Simon is referred to as “a zealot”, and while not a profession, the title suggests he was part of a fringe political group interested in the overthrow of the Roman government.  Again, not mainstream or popular. The rest of the disciples’ previous occupations are unknown.

But there is a scene that takes place much later that gives another piece of information about this rag-tag group.

After Jesus had returned to Heaven, the disciples were speaking about what they had seen and heard.  Through Peter, God performed a miracle and healed a lame man.  Reading through the account, we find that the man had been that way since birth and was now over 40 years old. 

Of course, the entire city of Jerusalem was going crazy over this miracle.  After Peter and John preached to the crowd, they were arrested by the religious authorities.  When they were brought before the Jewish leadership, Peter again spoke of Jesus:

Acts 4:12
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.

It’s the next comment that gives us a clue about their background before they had become Jesus’ disciples:

Acts 4:13
When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus.

Jesus’ disciples were men of little clout.  They were people that high society did not consider all that important.  They were common-folk, and some were outcasts.  Definitely not Varsity players.  Not even Junior Varsity.  Maybe they might make the B-team.  

However, no one can change a life like Jesus can.  Peter said it himself, that there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.  Just as all are welcome to come to Jesus for salvation – regardless of their background – don’t overlook someone’s need for a mentor because they don’t have a great resume.  The uneducated, the untrained, the unwanted – Jesus didn’t disqualify them, and neither should we.

The disciples’ example should also keep us from thinking that we could be disqualified from either being mentored or doing great things for God because we didn’t get the proverbial “silver spoon” or if we’ve been rejected by others.  Ask God to send you a mentor.  You might be surprised by who they are when they show up, too.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Consulting the Father

Early on in His ministry, Jesus was teaching around the Galilee area.  He healed diseases and deformities, forgave sins, cast out demons, corrected the teachers of the law, and preached in the synagogues.  Throughout the towns in the region, Jesus’ actions led to a large number of people following him around.  Some traveled from across the nation see Him.  Their social backgrounds varied significantly, from the high-society Pharisees to the bottom-rung tax collectors.  Many were just curious to hear Him speak, others desired to be his disciples – a word which means to be a learner or a pupil.  These people wanted to absorb everything they could from Jesus.  The best news was that anyone could choose to be a learner…Jesus taught anyone who had “ears to hear”, anyone who was willing to listen.

However, for Jesus to be effective in His ministry both before and after His death, He needed to get specific with a chosen few.  Jesus would personally pour into and develop the ones who would eventually be entrusted to carry the gospel message to the rest of the world.  This was a monumental choice, a decision that would affect people throughout history. 

If we needed to make that large of a decision, how would we approach it?  Make a list of pros and cons for each person?  Disqualify some based on the length of time spent following Jesus?  Make a test for them to take?  Ask for resumes?  Hire a consultant?

Take a look at Jesus’ approach:

Luke 6:12-13 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.  When daylight came, He summoned His disciples, and He chose 12 of them – He also named them apostles.

Jesus spent all night consulting with the Father.  While we don’t know the specific content or wording Jesus used while talking with the Father, Jesus certainly spent more than just a minute or two asking God for “guidance” and then going on with His own decision-making steps.  The Father was an intimate part of the entire process.  In one of Jesus’ last earthly prayers, He said to the Father:

John 17:6 I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world.  They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

During Jesus’ all-night prayer session, the Father revealed to Him which 12 from the mass of disciples were going to be Jesus’ apostles.  These 12 were still disciples – they were still learners – but now they would carry the distinction of being apostles, which means they were specifically identified as a delegate or messenger.  These were the ones Jesus would purposely develop so they would eventually act as His primary representatives.

I’ve pulled few all-nighters in my life – for conversation with others, writing papers, or working on projects…but I’ve never stayed up all night to consult with God.  Looking back into my own history, perhaps the direction I needed for some of the “big” decisions in life would have been clearer if I had consulted with God by more than a cursory prayer. 

Over and over in Jesus’ life, we see that His time with the Father kept him connected and on target with His given ministry.  Jesus did the Father’s Will because He spent significant time with the Father and trusted the Father’s decisions.  We would be wise to invest a similar emphasis in face-time with the Father before making decisions in our personal lives and our God-given ministries that will affect the generations to come.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Much ado about prayer

I remember when I was in grade school, I was told by my Sunday School teacher that I shouldn’t end my prayer the way I was saying it.  She gently told me that what I was saying wasn’t exactly theologically accurate…now while I don’t remember verbatim what my first grade mind came up with, I do remember thinking that I didn’t want to say what everyone else said at the end of a prayer.  I wanted to say something different, my own way of signing off or saying “see you later” to God.  She said that it would just be better for me to say “In Jesus’ name, Amen”.

Truthfully, she may have been correct that what I was saying was inaccurate…but to this day, I’ve often wondered what’s the “right way” for us to pray?  Later in my childhood, I was told by another adult that prayer was simply “talking to God”, but that statement still leaves me feeling unsettled. 

When my boys were young, they specifically asked me “Dad, what’s the right way to pray?  How do I do it?”  Not wanting to burden their young minds with the doubt and questions I had as a child, I reiterated what was told to me…Don’t worry about it, son.  You’re just talking to God, that’s all.  No formulas, no requirements.  Just tell God what’s on your mind…your worries, your hopes, anything that’s going on.  God can handle it.

However, as I’ve grown and matured…both in life and in my relationship with God…I still have the same lingering questions rattling around the back of my mind.  Is there a “right way” to pray?  Is it really “just talking to God”?  Am I doing this right?

It’s a good exercise to face the questions within us.  It’s also good to talk with other Christians about these things.  But when we have questions about our relationship with God, it’s even better to see what God has to say about it.

A survey of the Scriptures shows that prayer is everywhere.  Seems almost every person we encounter, from all walks of life, prays at some point.  From Job to Paul, David to Peter, Moses to Jabez, and Jonah to John it seems that everyone is either praying or talking about praying.  There are scores of example prayers to look at, and we could spend some time looking at the situations each of those prayers came from.  There would be plenty of benefit to looking through other believers’ examples in the Bible; however, I’m going to narrow the focus a little more in the hopes of answering my own lingering questions.

C.S. Lewis said that God’s aim is that “Every Christian is to become a little Christ”, and the Apostle John had this to say when he wrote about the health of our relationship with Christ:

1 John 2:6 the one who says he remains in [relationship with] Him should walk just as He walked

If these accurately describe God’s purpose toward those who have accepted Christ as Savior, then when it comes to prayer…I want to know how Jesus prayed.  Not only “how”, but also “when” and “why”.  If becoming like Christ is the goal, then he should be the first one we look to as our example.  Jesus’ own disciples also recognized this:

Luke 11:1 [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”

The disciples wanted to be like their teacher, so they naturally wanted to pray like him too.  We’re going to take a close look at what Jesus taught his disciples, as well as Jesus’ own prayer life – when did he pray and what did he pray?

As of this writing, I don’t know the answers to all of these questions…so we’re going to walk down this path and learn together.  Perhaps our best starting point is to have the same request the first disciples had

Lord, teach us to pray.

Keep Pressing,
Ken