Category Archives: discipleship

Western Christianity Versus the Borg

Jesus encouraged us to unshoulder our burdens and share them with Him (cf. Matthew 11:28); the Apostle Paul tells us to share our burdens with each other (cf. Galatians 6:2). Moreover, we are to use our resources to care for our Christian brothers and sisters. Still, we maintain a ‘great divide’ between laity and clergy and each other relationally – indeed a gap too wide to facilitate the transfer of our burdens to others or Christ. So they collect and weigh us down until we become the picture of spiritual unhealthiness and a questionable witness. Meanwhile, individualism prohibits deep interpersonal relationships necessary for accountability or the discovery of needs. How do we narrow the gap and once again participate instead of dictating or isolating? Through real community, not as a collective of individuals.

Our current one-to-many church model whereby a minister talks to a congregation and then sends them away has created a division between clergy and laity and defies the biblical structure meant for the assembly of Christ followers. There, everyone is equal, and they operate in parallel to use resources and spiritual gifts to equip the Saints for God’s ministry of reconciliation. Our contemporary Christianity, however, saddles clergy as paid religious professionals with laity responsibility for spiritual development and business tasks. As a result, growth is stunted, spiritual lethargy abounds, and opportunities for sharing God-given gifts and talents are nearly non-existent. Moreover, the congregation itself exists not as one body but a collection of individuals sharing the inbound religious experience.

Scott Boren, the author of The Relational Way, points out that the United States has been dubbed by many sociologists as the most individualized society in human history (12). Because our churches comprise complex, diverse humanity that doesn’t, for the most part, become transformed into the likeness of Christ, we too model individualism. We share little including struggles and needs or the Gospel for that matter. Why? Individualism and relationalism are antithetical; the former (us) creates a firewall that restricts relationships and, therefore, the trust necessary for sharing. Let’s have a bit of fun and look at something that looks more like we should: The Borg.

If you are a long-time Star Trek fan, you will likely know of the Borg – that single entity comprising many individuals functioning as that single consciousness; they exist to participate relationally for the betterment of the ‘one.’ Here are some helpful snippets from the Star Trek database (

The Borg have a singular goal … This collective consciousness is experienced by the Borg as “thousands” of voices — they are collectively aware, but not aware of themselves as separate individuals. … Among the many advantages their collective consciousness affords them, the Borg hive-mind allows for instantaneous adaptations … with the power of their collective thoughts alone. … The hive-mind drones do not register as individual life-signs when scanned, only as a mass reading …

OK, so the Borg is fictional, and the Church is not. However, we could learn a serious lesson from the Borg concept: Participate to serve, not experience; Grow to help, not for self-gain.

In summary, God has equipped each of us to partner with others in His ministry of Reconciliation. Rather than congregate as self-centered individuals with a common desire to experience religion, let’s become more relational to build trust to enable training and service. Then, we can truly resemble the Borg … well, without all the tubes and stuff!



The Incredibly Destructive Force of Negative Thought and Speech

Like most people, I’ve experienced the destructive nature of negativity from a distance and engaged in negative chit-chat from time to time. However, I’d never fully witnessed its destructive effects on a lingering personal and painful basis until very recently when I became the victim of collateral damage. The destruction came, in this case, from emotional atomic bombs dropped by those significant to me, leaving a swath of destruction and damaged relationships in their paths. My prayer is that this brief blog will help the healing process while relieving a little frustration and (most importantly!) helping others cope or change their behavior if necessary.

Allowing ourselves to get sucked into negative slander and back-stabbing conversation can feel good for a moment while it creates an air of emotional bonding over common foes or hatreds; however, there’s nothing helpful and everything hurtful about the practice that begins with a negative thought. Here are some sobering tidbits about the effects of negative thought and speech:

  • Fact: Cancer and this type of thinking and behavior are linked, as are physical ailments and crippling illnesses.
  • Fact: Emotional and mental fallout from this self-generated thinking and behavior include anger, depression, paranoia, and unhappiness at the very least.
  • Fact: There’s probably no quicker way to destroy personal and family relationships than to react out of anger with hateful or slanderous speech after working oneself into a frenzy about things that are likely to be untrue or exaggerated. The tongue is indeed a destructive weapon! “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
    And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.“-James 3:5-6.
  • Fact: Negative speech and thought are likely symptoms of deeper emotional or spiritual issues. Jesus, after all, made this related comment: “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and these defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” –Matthew 5:18-19.
  • Fact: Those aligned with God don’t practice negative, destructive speech. The alternative should be clear.
    • Slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. —Romans 1:30-32.
    • But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. —Colossians 3:8.

Regarding Confrontation. However, this isn’t to be confused with healthy, unassuming confrontation whereby issues and behavior can be addressed and resolved; forgiveness and healing are often the positive side-effects.

Where do we go from here? If you recognize these behaviors in yourself, then stop!! Begin substituting negative thoughts with positive ones, and getting clarification instead of making assumptions and harboring anger. Don’t engage in negative conversation. And, dwell on good and positive activities. On the other hand, if you already do those things and are, therefore, not a negative and slandering individual: Keep on keepin’ on!


Ron Braley

Soul Food, Anyone?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” resonates with those of us who understand the value of caring for what we value from home and car maintenance to finances. Care of the ‘soul’ should get no less attention and upkeep; spiritual formation points us in the right direction and can help us remain healthy in body, soul, and mind.

Because I understand the soul represents what the spirit doesn’t (e.g. body, mind, intent, etc.,) spiritual formation (soul-care) makes perfect sense to me as the ounce of prevention needed to be faithful, obedient, and healthy. The lack of attention to relative formation elements introduces the risk of stress, anxiety, poor physical and mental/emotional health, and limited or non-existent faith – all of which can become roadblocks to spiritual effectiveness!

Here are a few standard disciplines related to spiritual formation and the reduction of the risks I just mentioned:

  • Bible Study & Prayer. The Bible makes clear that our faith (belief/confidence) is formed largely through exposure to the Scriptures (e.g. Romans 10:17; 2Timothy 3:16-17). The learning provides boundaries and guidance, builds our ability to follow, and reduces the chances of deception (cf. Colossians 2:7-8). Most Christians (more than 98%, statistically) don’t read the Bible regularly. And, although prayer is our communication with God through the Spirit, we don’t do that regularly or effectively either. Setting aside at least one period each day (ideally at the same time) for prayer and Bible study will allow us to ‘renew our minds’, avoid deceptions (g., equip to train others, and petition or thank our God.
  • Physical Exercise. Physical exercise reduces stress and illness. And, the better we feel, the more efficient we’ll likely be in our walk as Jesus’ followers. A regiment of at least 30 minutes or so several times a week in some cardio and physical exercise would be an excellent start.
  • Mental Exercise. The brain needs stimulus too. Engaging in educational pursuits, intelligent conversations or debates, reading, etc. will help keep you mentally healthy and productive in your work, play, and witness.
  • Financial Stewardship. Financial problems provide much stress and distraction from important and healthy pursuits. Stress over financial trouble strains relationships and physical health alike. God calls us to be good financial stewards as shown by the Bible throughout the Old and New Testaments (e.g. Psalms 37:21; Proverbs 22:7 & 26; Matthew 25:27; Luke 20:20-25; Romans 13:8). Following biblical advice will aid greatly in keeping us healthy and financially stable.
  • Relationship Maintenance. Finally, we’re social creatures and must maintain our relationships to reduce stress and loneliness. Relationships are also critical to our ability to evangelize and disciple others. Therefore, we should make time to maintain our connections to family and friends.

In conclusion, my challenge to all followers of our Christ is that we continually engage in spiritual formation – ‘soul care’ – to ensure we’re active participants in our covenant with God.



Come Back!!

The Creator Called: He wants His stuff back! Return. Partner. Live!

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ —1Thessalonians 5:9.

And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation —Hebrews 5:9.

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. —1John 2:17.

Communion – Food for Thought

The sacrament/ordinance of Communion invites different thoughts and even an air of mystery depending on your religious background. Regardless, we typically understand it to be either a Spirit-enabled grace or remembrance related to Jesus’ sacrifice; whether grace or memory will, again, depend on religious affiliation. However, the sacrifice is but one of two major points of consideration. Remembering only the sacrifice, we seemingly gloss over the other – the covenant Jesus’ sacrifice enabled. That marriage-like covenant will be the focus of my blog.

God and our Christ have always communicated with us in terms and contexts humans understand and to which we can relate. For instance, Jesus used fishing terminology when teaching fishermen and farming concepts when instructing farmers. Likewise, God used or established human practices to guide performance and dress rehearsals for things to hope for in the future.

An excellent example of God’s use of an existing practice to guide contemporary behavior was the covenant He formed with Abraham with its cutting, shedding of blood, and the promise of servitude. It constituted the basis for the renewed covenant through Moses and the dress rehearsals of the Passover feast (e.g. 1Corinthians 5:7) and a marriage-like relationship with Israel. Both rehearsals would eventually be fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrifice and resulting marriage-like covenant. But what do covenant, sacrifice, and marriage have to do with Communion?

Jesus and Paul made clear that the Church is the Bride of Christ (see the fulfillment steps below) just as Israel was the Bride of God (e.g. Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 54:5-8). And why not? Marriage is a covenant, and there’s no other human relationship meant to be as close. Therefore, the Jewish marriage served as a good ‘dress rehearsal’ for the relationship of God with the world through the Christ.

Understanding the process Jesus and His disciples were familiar with will help in the interpretation of Jesus, Paul, and John’s comments related to the bride, a cup of the covenant, separation and preparation of a home, the return of Christ, and the wedding supper. Here are major steps of the Jewish betrothal/marriage process we fulfill with Jesus until His return:

Ancient Jewish Betrothal & Our Fulfillment

  1. Father of the groom selects a potential bride: 2Corinthians 11:2
  2. Covenant sealed by bride and groom drinking from the cup of covenant: Matthew 26:27-29
  3. Separation (John Chapter 14; Matthew 9:14-15) & building of a home: John 14:2-3
  4. Father determined the day/hour of the marriage gathering: Mark 13:26-32

Ancient Jewish Wedding & Our Fulfillment

  1. Wedding announcement by shouts and trumpet: Matthew 24:30-31; 1Thessalonians 4:16-17
  2. Wedding feast and the drinking of the last cup: Matthew 26:29; Revelation 19:7-9
  3. The wife goes to her new home: Revelation 21:1-2 & 9-10


In closing, my challenge is that we as His Bride not only remember Jesus’ sacrifice during the sharing of wine and bread but also the marriage-like covenant His shed blood and broken body made possible.





Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-20167 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Dunkin’ Do-Nots

I found the Sacrament (or Ordinance) of Baptism fascinating, and it reminds me of so many questions and internal friction spawned by this simple and yet critical Christian function! Dip or dunk? Necessary for salvation? Public or private? Prescriptive or Descriptive?

Baptism was prescribed from the beginning and had a presence in ancient Israel and pagan rituals, but what purpose does it serve for contemporary Christianity? Humanmade doctrine varies, and you’ll find it an act that imparts grace on the newly-born and old alike for the sacramental-minded. And there, a sprinkle is likely to be just as effective as a complete dunking as long as an individual ordained in the particular sect or denomination performs the rite. On the other hand, you’d be more likely to find baptism an ordinance of immersion and more of a symbolic act of burial and resurrection than an impartation of Godly grace if you’re of a Protestant persuasion. Which is correct, and does the function impact the salvation of those being doused or dunked?

What the Bible makes clear: Baptism in our New Testament context is meant to represent the forgiveness of sin and symbolize rebirth in Christ. It provided accountability, at least in the beginning, through the public profession of faith – often in the face of possible martyrdom. But that the ritual is necessary for salvation is unlikely; that idea may be part of a misunderstanding of salvation and a focus on praxis as opposed to the heart.

First of all, and contrary to our contemporary desire, the Bible teaches us that salvation – a rescuing by definition – will be a stay from God’s future wrath (e.g. 1Peter 1:3-5). Second, Jesus had a lot to say about our heart (intent) and the idea of choosing and following. And, Paul seems to corroborate the concept of persevering in our covenant with God. Finally, the Bible and this week’s lectures confirm that our confession of choice is synonymous with a ‘dying to self,’ and dying is indeed necessary before burial and resurrection baptism symbolizes. So, while it may not be directly related to salvation itself, baptism is meant to be a visible sign (not unlike circumcision in God’s covenant with Israel) that someone has ‘counted the cost’ and chosen to covenant with God. In other words, the ‘washing’ implies an educated commitment.

A common practice in the early church (still done in some Christian circles today) was to spend perhaps many months training a new ‘believer’ before baptism to ensure they understood what they were about to do. Contrast the practice with our Western tendency to get someone to say a ‘sinner’s prayer’ and seek baptism with little or no knowledge of the God with whom they’re supposed to covenant!

So, dunk, dip, or sprinkle as long as the recipient ends up as more than just wet!



Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-20167publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Adopt a Bible!

Disappointingly, our plea for Bibles for Africa recently yielded no results despite the knowledge that most Africans have no Bible (including most Christian teachers and leaders!).

How can the people learn about God or become disciples effectively with no guide?

How can we who are wealthy by comparison and have an abundance of Bibles and Christian literature be obedient to Jesus’ commandment to ‘tell’ and ‘make disciples’ without doing our part to rectify this incredible disparity?

So, I thought I’d take a different approach by asking everyone to ‘adopt a Bible’. A donation of only $10 will buy one Swahili Bible. Obviously, Africa needs more than one Bible but if everyone buys at least one, we win in our obedience and Africa wins by being able to learn and teach their Faith.

Will you adopt a Bible for Africa by donating here?


Ron Braley, &