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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Devotional Classics Review Unit One Chapter 2

Preparing for the Spiritual Life

Dallas Willard
The Cost of Nondiscipleship

       Willard, a fatherly contemporary of many of today's readers, was born in Buffalo Missouri in 1935.  A career in academics lead him to embrace Husserlian Phenomenology, or systematic reflectiona and analysis of conciousness and the phenomena that derive thereby.  He taught at University of Wisconsin and is presently at the University of Sourthern California.
       He is distinguished as a philosopher and has over thirty publications.  He is a man of great faith and Christian conviction, who by editor R. foster's personal observation is able to share great Gospel truths with ordinary folk in a conversational manner.
       The selection for this weeks devotional comes from an appendix to his book The Spirit of the Disciplines.

Six sections include topics as follows:
  1. Discipleship For Super Christians Only
  2. Undiscipled Disciples
  3. Great Omissions from the Great Commission
  4. Discipleship Then
  5. Discipleship Now
  6. The Cost of Nondiscipleship
       The Bible reading is from Mathew 28:16-20 The Great Commission The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountaiin where Jesus had directed them.  When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.  Then Jesus came near and said to them, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

       When I was young, and as life would have it, alone for the first time in my life, God saw to it that I had compassionate people in my life to lead me into Bible study in a very loving and patient way so that I remained open to the blessings He had in store for me.  I say I was alone for the first time for I had up to that time had a constant companion in the form of my older brother, Tommy.  He guarded me and taught me and helped nourish me and entertained me, but alas he was taken from me very violently and abruptly via a boating accident.  I was distraught.  I was beside myself.  I was afraid.  I was angry.  I was ready to go where he was, wherever that might be.  I was lost.  My parents were sad and hurt.  My grandparents and my Great Uncle and Aunt  who most conveniently lived right next door, as well as many others, were attentative, ready and willing to respond to my plight with Bible stories and reading on a regular basis.  My aloneness was a little of my own thinking, and eventually I heard and understood that I must at some point allow Jesus to be my Lord and Saviour, at least that is what we called it, and I still do today, if I wanted to leave my angst and fear and dismay behind.        So one day, during a pause while by myself, I asked Jesus to be just that for me, Lord and Saviour.  I then, led by the Spirit, went into the next room and told my grandparents what had just transpired and they told me I should go and tell others about this development in my life.  I protested that we lived out in the country miles from anyone, reminding them how small I was, and that there were no others to tell.  So they pointed out that there might be someone next door at my home whom would like to hear such news.  Immediately it dawned on me that momma would want to know and be glad to hear it!  So scampering as a child of my size would I ran out the front door onto the porch, as I flew down the steps to the yard, not stopping for breath nor sight I was enraptured in the hand of my Saviour on my shoulder, hearing Him say to me those very words, "Lo I am with you alway."

      Today I know many churches are introducing the youngsters of their membership and even older folks, to some of these very principles, Bible Study, Evangelism, Fellowship, Prayer, et al, in classes designed to help the hopeful understand what it is they are asking God to do.  My only contrary thought here is that perhaps the vernacular should be to help them understtand what it is that God has done that they only need to accept and admit in humility, publicly.
    It does seem that today we focus a lot, and maybe that is changing, on making people the seed while leaving them on the hard ground or rocky soil or amongst the weeds, without encouraging them directly and obviously, that becoming saved is a matter of following Jesus.  Part of following Jesus is, especially as infants in Christ, finding the best environment for germinating seed, then sprouting into sunlight quickly, growing roots for the encouragement to grow in Christian stature, and responding to the climate and weather of life so that our trunks and stems are strengthened to hold the flower,  and the  pith  and pit of our Lord and Saviour's fruit.  For it can be mighty to signal and save others.  But God has chosen us to be vessels of communication and training for others.  Step on up!  Be Saved!  (Be disciplined!) 

     As I have grown into adulthood, and beginning with those early stories and parables, I have found some whom I admired and would be like if I could.  Of course there were the mighty men of God who stood faithful, oftentimes unflingchingly facing the most incredulous of situations.  Stephen comes to mind, Samson in the end, and David of course.  I have always tried to hear my Lord and respond to his usually gentle message while striving to understand Ephesians 6:10-20 and Galations 5:22-26.  From the pages of more recent history are George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, or Winston Churchill and Mahatma Ghandi.  To emulate these I practrice honesty, courage, studiousness, egalitarianism and gentleness. Out of my contemporary life I would have been the next Bob Lilly or Tom Landry and while young and excitable I strove to be physically adept to the most stringent and active and alert bodily edifications.   

     Of course, in all things we must remember who has made us and to whom we return, and what it is He would have us to be and do.  As I alluded to earlier one of the first fruits I realized was abiding peace.  When I have forgotten that most important thing, to remember Jesus, it has cost me:
  1. Abiding peace during great tumult
  2. Life penetrated by love in a self centered society
  3. Faith that sees everything in the light of God's goodness in a duplicitous world
  4. Hopefulness in the face of frustration
  5. The power to do right and stand firm in the face of evil
     Not having clairvoyance I can only guess that one of the things that might happen in my life today if I were able to completely focus on God and his intents and will and blessings in my life would be a lessening of worry and an increase of enthusiasm as well as the realization that God has the power and energy,  knowledge and wisdom, compassion and patience to accomplish all that He desires.  
 To remedy my frustration, I need to rely on God to heal me into wholesomeness by focusing on and training a yearning for peace, love, faith, hopefulness, power, and abundance of life.

I will love my enemies by praying for them, blessing those who curse me, and walking the second mile with an oppressor.
(this will not be easy!)

I will study the Bible(esp Matthew) to see what all it is that God would have me to be and do in order to be more like the loving forgiving One He is and wants for me to be.

     Richard Foster reflects that without discipline the convert to Christianity is just a member of a social club and is in effect helping rob the church of the nutrients it needs to foster lovingkindness and outreach.  He further states that we must intend to come under the tutelage of Christ and follow through with that intention.  We must live his life, not just mimic it.
Prayer, solitude, simplicity, and service will help us to follow in The Way.

I want to sing, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His marvelous grace."  Sing with me...

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