Tag Archives: disciple

The Ghost Pepper That Wasn’t!

Knowing that I like hot foods and peppers, my son challenged me one day: “Dad – I’m going to send you a scorching hot ghost pepper my friend grew in his garden. Take a video of you eating it and send it to me!” Not always the ‘sharpest knife in the drawer,’ nor one to back down from a challenge quickly, I replied, “Sure, son – bring it on!”

The day of the digestive inferno to be recorded for posterity finally came. Gingerly unwrapping the package and removing the potent fellow from its baggy with plastic-covered hands, I steeled myself for pain. Then, just when the little bugger was about to fly down the hatch, I thought, “Hey! What if I cut a little piece off the end first and taste it to see just how hot this thing is?” Emboldened by the epiphany, I chopped off an ever-so-slightly visible end and stuck it in my mouth, again, anticipating pain.

And then . . . nothing. The thing was a dud. But my son didn’t know that! So, I turned on the recorder and filmed myself bravely munching and swallowing the supposed death-pepper. My son and his friend were astonished, and I was once again the hero of the day—that is until I finally manned up and told them the truth, that the pepper was a fraud. A fake. A phony. A faux pepper. A decidedly dead dud of a dangling wanna-be. The experience did make me wonder, though, how this could happen.

As it turns out, cool peppers may be caused by a “combination of improper soil and site situations, variety, or even poor cultivation practices” (https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/pepper/chili-peppers-not-hot.htm). In other words, my son’s friend didn’t know what he was doing (lucky for me!). Believe it or not, there’s a good lesson here for those of us who desire to be disciples of Jesus and repeat the process in others.

Jesus taught us that good soil is critical for accepting the gospel of God’s Kingdom and growing in faith and spirit (Matthew 13:1-9 & 18-23). And without the root of the Holy Spirit, there can be no fruit (Matthew 13:20-21; Galatians 5:16-26). A fruitless, actionless faith will bring spiritual death (James 2:14-26).

So, what’s my point? The dud-of-a-ghost pepper was fruitless and impotent because it had a bad start and improper care and feeding. So likewise, we can be fruitless self-proclaimed Christians headed for spiritual death without the good soil of God’s Kingdom brought by word and deed, the Spirit of God to keep us grounded, and discipleship to aid in our growth. Next week, we’ll check out how to effectively deal with temptation before it becomes rebellion or death.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

How to Read the Bible Part IV: Tools

By now, you may be feeling as though understanding the Bible is hopeless. Don’t fret! Tools abound! You may not be familiar with Jewish idioms or cultural influences on scriptures, but commentaries can fill you in! So you’re not a biblical Greek or Hebrew scholar. No problem! Dictionaries, interlinears, and concordances are your friends! The following are the essential tools, along with a brief description of each.

Lexicon. These are dictionaries of foreign languages that can also help bridge cultural differences between today’s world and Bible times.

Dictionary. This contains important words (e.g., people’s names, topics, etc.) found in the Bible and is based on specific translations. Many Bibles have abbreviated dictionaries in the back of the book. A Bible dictionary can help us understand historical and cultural contexts, key people and events, and the original meanings of words written in other languages such as Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

Concordance. Key words in the Bible are listed alphabetically and can help locate scriptures related to them. If you can think of a word, the concordance can point you to the actual verse containing it. Strong’s Concordance is a popular version that also gives the original language wording and definition.

Interlinear. This tool is excellent for those of us who aren’t biblical Greek or Hebrew scholars! We often believe that the Bible is a word-for-word translation from original languages, which is untrue and impossible. The English language is severely limited compared to biblical Greek. For instance, our word ‘love’ must represent several different kinds of emotion or action mentioned in the Bible. An interlinear will show you the original wording alongside the English renditions so that you can see the intent of the passage.

Commentaries. Well-trained scholars write these to explain biblical texts. They inform of figures of speech, verses such as John 6:4 that have been added, and the context in which the scriptures were written. Because we are so far removed from the language, culture, and contexts of biblical writing, we should never consider doing serious Bible study without using commentaries! But here are a couple of warnings: 1. These are written by humans and, therefore, are often created through a personal religious bias; 2. Use multiple commentaries!!! No one is accurate and unbiased in everything. Using numerous commentaries will help provide a well-rounded understanding of the scriptures you’re studying.

Online Tools. Many Internet sites provide online access to Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, and interlinears. Here are several good choices:

https://www.e-sword.net   (excellent downloadable Bible software with commentaries and Strong’s Concordance)

https://www.blueletterbible.org

https://www.biblegateway.com

https://www.biblestudytools.com

https://biblehub.com

https://www.studylight.org/bible-study-tools.html

https://www.bibleref.com/

Next week, we’ll add one more golden nugget to this series: change our life through what we read from the Bible. That’s a good thing since we’re to be transformed into the image of Christ!

The Holy Spirit Part III: No Root, No Fruit!

Last week, I explained that the Spirit of God is our heavenly equipper. He enables capabilities through skills and dynamic heavenly gifts such as divine and human languages and interpretation, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, and discerning spirits. The Father still gives Christ-followers His Spirit for service by way of the gifts I just mentioned. The Spirit also helps us in our transformation. What kind of transformation? A changed heart (mind) that drives changed behavior according to God’s ways. This is what God desires – not empty belief-only. “But Ron – if the Spirit is at work in a Christ-follower’s life, shouldn’t he or she look and act differently?” Yep!

Some people in Christian communities work according to the Spirit, and some don’t. Those who do walk by the Spirit of God produce loving action out of their faith. And, their behaviors and demeanor reflect the Spirit at work within them. The Bible calls those fruit-producing, Spirit-driven Christ-followers children of God (e.g., John 1:12; Acts 17:29; Romans 8:16-17; Matthew 13:38). They love, house, feed, clothe, sow peace, grow in faith, and make disciples who do the same.

On the other hand, many people are Christ-believersonly, producing nothing of value for God. His Spirit is not at work in their lives, as shown by the lack of fruit – manifestations of a Spirit-enabled faith. The Bible calls them spiritual ‘weeds’ (Matthew 13:24-30 & 41-42), and their fate is inevitable.

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’”Matthew 25:41-43.

“Alright, Ron – I get it. True followers of Jesus can be identified by what they do, how they live, and how they love because of their faith. What kind of behaviors and activities should we see from them?” Here are the fruits (manifestations) of a Spirit-enabled Christian according to the Apostle Paul (notice that they are action-related in some way!):

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. —Galatians 5:22-25.

In summary, no root (Spirit), no fruit (Godly behaviors and output). Pray that the Father will give His Spirit to produce fruit that will stand the test of time! Next week, we’ll explore lying and empty promises in Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

The Way it Is (Discipleship, Part III)

Over the last several weeks, I’ve written that a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a copycat who makes more copycats and offered three essential tips for effective discipleship:

Tip #1: Be a Sold-out Copycat (of good stuff)!

Tip #2: Follow Jesus’ Model to Make More Copycats!

Tip #3: GO!

Together, we’ve also explored how the earliest Church discipled using Jesus’ approach. Now, let’s talk about how you can be and make disciples today.

First, it’s essential that we continuously develop ourselves spiritually through Bible study, prayer, accountability, and discipleship. After all, we can’t live, model, or share what we don’t know!

Second, we must be incarnational. What I mean is that we must be integral in our communities, whether at work, play, or anything else. That way, we can develop trust-building relationships that will allow dialogue about what we believe and why.

Third, we must be contextual. “Say what??” Exactly! We must be and communicate in the same ways as others so that they’ll understand what we’re showing and telling. Think about it: Jesus spoke in farming terms and figures of speech when He taught the good news of God’s Kingdom to farmers. And he used fishing sayings when talking to fishermen. He used examples to make His points more apparent and applicable.

Without being incarnational, there’s little chance of building the kind of relationships that will allow ongoing, deep and personal discipleship. Without being contextual – meeting and communicating with people where they are instead of expecting them to come, our modeling and evangelism will likely fall on blind eyes and deaf ears. “But Ron – how can I be incarnational and contextual?” Great question!

One way to build relationships incarnationally is to be involved in the lives of others by following a BELLS principle: Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn, and Sent. Make friends, not numbers. Bless multiple people each day. Eat with others (it’s a great way to show care and deepen relationships!). Listen to the Spirit of God as He directs your discipleship steps. Learn about God and His ways, so that you’ll have something to model and tell those people with whom you’re building relationships. And make sure you GO (sent)!!

To be contextual in your modeling and telling, understand the dress, traditions, figures of speech, customs, and desires of those you hope to witness to and disciple. Show interest. Use terminology familiar to them, not Christianese. Finally, consider an ongoing Life Transformation Group of 2-3 people of the same sex for weekly prayer, accountability, and Bible study.

The Way it Was (Discipleship, Part II)

In the last blog, I wrote that a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a copycat who makes more copycats and offered three essential tips for effective discipleship:

Tip #1: Be a Sold-out Copycat (of good stuff)!

Tip #2: Follow Jesus’ Model to Make More Copycats!

Tip #3: GO!

Now, let’s explore how the earliest Church discipled using Jesus’ approach.

Early Christians didn’t have programs, bills, a different language (Christianese), or an expectation that people should come to them or their church. Instead, they lived life well in the community with everyone else, according to the words of God and ways of Christ. The yet-to-be-churched saw the gospel at work and observed consistent good works and Godly behaviors. What they saw built trust and made them curious. So, the earliest Church grew because God-fearing Christ-followers met people where there were. Here’s part of a letter written to the tutor of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century, which reflects this approach, especially the modeling aspect of discipleship:

Christians are not different from the rest of men in nationality, speech, or customs; they do not live in states of their own, nor do they use a special language, nor adopt a peculiar way of life. … they follow local custom in the matter of dress, food, and way of life; yet the character of the culture they reveal is marvellous … They share in all duties like citizens and suffer all hardships like strangers. … They marry like the rest of men and beget children, but they do not abandon the babies that are born. They share a common board, but not a common bed. In the flesh as they are, they do not live according to the flesh. They dwell on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the laws that men make, but their lives are better than the laws. … They are maligned, and yet are vindicated. They are reviled, and yet they bless. They suffer insult, yet they pay respect. They do good, yet are punished with the wicked.

In the third of three discipleship blogs, I’ll offer a few tips for being light and the Kingdom of God by meeting people where they are today and ministering in ways they understand. As you can imagine, we must get out from behind church walls, or the building becomes the most expensive ‘lampshade’ on the planet! And there’s no point in bringing others the gospel of God’s Kingdom if they don’t trust or understand us! Don’t worry, though – I’m here to help!

Don’t forget to join me on October 3rd for Disciple-Con 20/20 Vision! For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit http://www.findingdiscipleship.org/disciplecon2020

Questions or comments? Email publisher@taylorpress.net.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Evangelism: When enough is enough . . .

I’ve often witnessed someone focusing on trying to maintain what ends up being a tumultuous and unhealthy relationship because they believe they’ll eventually ‘lead the other person to Christ’. In business, this could be considered a bad ROI – Return on Investment – of the resources spent trying to ‘save’ someone.
We’re not responsible for saving people, only for passing on the good news of salvation from God’s wrath to come. The receiver must choose what to do with the information and any prompting by the Spirit of God. Granted, evangelizing that good news will benefit from relationships; however, you may reach a point when ‘enough is enough’ – especially if the relationship is emotionally or spiritually harmful to you. And, your time may be better spent in moving forward in telling others the good news and discipling those who become willing participants in a covenant with God through the Christ.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” —Matthew 9:37-38.

“Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” —Matthew 10:14.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” —Matthew 7:6.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 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 http://www.ronbraley.com 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!

The “A-B-C’s” of Judging Others and Discipleship (Originally “Judge Dread”)

The idea of judging really trips people up. Many know their own faults or past sins and feel they have no right to judge others about anything as a result. On the other hand, some people behave as though it’s their duty to inform everyone around them of every act they feel is contrary to God’s ways. The truth regarding judging others resides somewhere in the middle.

Are we to judge at all? Definitely! How else will we disciple others or ‘sharpen’ (which is more of a complete reshaping, by the way!). But, let’s take a look at what the word judge means before we go any further.

It comes from the Greek word kree’-no, which means to ‘call into question’. Of course, we can’t call anything into question if we don’t know what should be questionable or why. Who should judge whom? According to Jesus, God will judge the world – those who aren’t Jesus’ followers – and Jesus will judge followers at His return and the end of this current age. Meanwhile, we’re to hold one another accountable for growth and moral positioning.

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst . . . Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. . . . Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. 1Corinthians 5:1-13.

So, how are we to judge other followers of Jesus? We are to be careful and gentle, basing the ‘questioning’ on adherence to the Christ’s commandments and not on emotion. The goal must always be to help those followers who are ‘sinning’ to turn back to the truth and be reconciled with the church (e.g. James 15:19-20).  The text below not only confirms that but also reminds us that we’re not to tolerate the unrepentant practice of sinful behavior within the Church.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” —Matthew 18:15-17.

Want to ‘love’ your brother or sister in the Christ? Then judge them according to God and our Christ’s commandments with a sense of urgency before it’s too late for those who are practicing sinful behavior that will earn them a one-way ticket to God’s judgment!

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 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 www.ronbraley.com 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!