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Deep Disciples of Jesus Shaping Article

You, a Christian? Really?!

Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj

Do you call yourself ‘Christian’? Do you brand yourself as a Christian?

What does that word mean? To answer that question we must turn to the Bible – the book which used that word first. In the Bible, the word ‘Christian’ is used three times. When we study those three instances we get to see three characteristics that cannot be separated from any true ‘Christian’ – a biblical Christian.

Converted

Let’s race to passage number one: Paul stands before King Agrippa as a prisoner. His crime – preaching Jesus. Paul gives Agrippa a blow by blow account of his conversion experience: the ride on the road to Damascus… his passion to persecute followers of Jesus… the blinding light from heaven… the voice that said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!”…. his U-turn… his repentance…etc etc.

After having shared his terrific testimony Paul did not stop. He did not shut up.  He went on. He got a touch personal with King Agrippa. He posed a personal question to him: “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe!” You see, Paul was not just trying to save himself from further imprisonment by sharing his testimony – he wanted to save King Agrippa from going to hell too! After this abrupt and daring invasion of his private space by Paul, King Agrippa said, “In a short time, would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28).  There you bump into the word we are trying to understand the meaning of – the word ‘Christian’. Ask King Agrippa what he meant when he used the word ‘Christian’. This would be his answer: “To be a Christian for me is to be someone like Paul – to be someone with a CONVERSION experience!”

You cannot be called a Christian without a convertion experience!

Yup, the word Conversion and ‘Christian’ go together. A Biblical Christian cannot be a Christian without the conversion experience. Absolutely. Do you call yourself a ‘Christian’ without an experience of conversion?! If so – forgive me for being blunt – you simply are not a Christian. You are just pretending to be one! You don’t have to hire a horse and ride on the road to Damascus to make this experience your own. Right now, I invite you to kneel down by your bedside with a repentant heart and ask Jesus to forgive you and come into your heart and life. If you have done that, you too are converted! You too are a Christian!

Committed

Let’s talk about yet another time the Bible used the word ‘Christian’: The setting now is the city of Antioch. A new preacher is sent to this church from the church in Jerusalem – the headquarters. His name? Barnabas. What was his message? “Remain faithful to the Lord!” In other words, he was trying to help believers graduate from merely being a believer into a disciple. One believer he searched out and discipled was Paul. For one full year, Barnabas preached messages that typified what his name meant: encourager. He preached messages that encouraged wobbly believers to become solid disciples. Who could be called Jesus’ disciples? Those who remain faithful to Him – no matter what the cost is or how challenging the condition is. Such COMMITTED folks were nicknamed Christians by the folks in Antioch (Acts 11:26)! 

Are you the sort that will desert Jesus at the slightest provocation – such as in times of a tantalizing temptation or perturbing persecution? Then you can’t be called a Christian according to the Bible. Christians, according to the Bible, are those who stay committed to Christ, even when the going gets tough!

Celebrating

Christian or a celebrating Christian?!

This aspect of being a Christian was so important that another Bible writer also talks about it. Yes, Peter also brought together these two words: commitment and Christian. He did by writing his first letter thus: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name!” (I Pet 4:15, 16).  If you have carefully read those two verses you will grasp that Peter’s understanding of the word, ‘Christian’, goes one step further than that of Luke – the author of the book of Acts, the source of our first two references for word, ‘Christian’, in the Bible. Here is how: a Christian is someone who CELEBRATES God even while suffering because he stays stubbornly COMMITTED to Christ! Yes – a Biblical Christian is someone who glorifies God even when the going gets rough and tough! Are you that sort of Christian? Are you a complaining Christian or a celebrating Christian?!

It can be said, when the going gets tough, the true Christian will get going!

Stop. Think. Introspect. Look inwards. Are you a Christian merely by name? I pray that after you have read this piece, your understanding of the word ‘Christian’ is never the same! Would you surrender your life to Christ so that He will change you into a Biblical Christian? Would you do that, right now?!

(This article was published in the Aim Magazine – October 2021 edition. Aim is published by the Evangelical Fellowship of India. Duke is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, the G4 Mission. This is a reader-supported Indian ministry to presentday people. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org. Watch Duke’s messages at http://www.youtube.com/visitduke).

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Bible Study Deep Disciples of Jesus Shaping Article

New Year Priorities

Duke Jeyaraj’s practical study of the word ‘annual’ found in the Bible

An annual master health checkup is recommended by many. What the things that God’s Word says we must do year after year?

The word yearly or annually occurs quite a few times in the Bible. Some of these Bible references give us indications about things that the Lord wants us to do on a yearly basis. These would give us a clue as to what kind of New Year resolutions we should be taking. These Bible passages talk about the priorities we must have as believers year after year.

THE YEAR OF GOD-WORSHIP

This New Year we must resolve to worship God more. Judges 21:19 which tells us that there was an annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, gives me the specific inspiration for this New Year resolution. It was in that festival that a dance was a noted feature (Judges 21:21). The people of Israel could not sit in one place when they thought of the good things the Lord had done for them. They, especially the women, had to get up and dance in the Lord’s presence! In this year, we must resolve to be people who worship God!

A devotional reading from Our Daily Bread reading made this fabulous suggestion which will help us practically execute this New Year resolution: During daily family prayer each family member could talk about the blessings God gave them on that day. This could be jotted down in a small sheet of paper. On a typical day, a family may have four or five points for praising God, if each family member spoke up. Each such point should make into a fresh chit of paper. These chits should be rolled and tossed in a ‘thanks giving bowl’. An empty fish tank bowl can be used. This should be done daily through the year. And when 31 December comes you can fish out these chits from the bowl and read them out in mega family thanksgiving prayer once again, praising God for the wonderful way, He graciously took care of us in that particular year! If Eric Yuan, the founder of Zoom was a believer, and if he wrote out these kinds of thanksgiving chits, this would been an entry on the April 30, 2020: ‘God enabled the company I founded, Zoom, to jump 10 million daily meeting participants in December 2019, to 300 million’ (Time, December 21-28, 2020, p.72).

THE YEAR OF FAMILY-WOWING

The New Year should be a year in which you resolve to be a more responsible family person. The Lord has graciously added the New Year into our life so that we can take good care of our families. When I read this portion of Scripture, this New Year Resolution inspiration came to me: ‘Now Samuel was ministering before the LORD—a boy wearing a linen ephod.  Each year his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him when she went with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice.  And Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the LORD give you children by this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the LORD.” Then they would go home’ (I Sam. 2:18-20). We know that Samuel’s mom, Hannah, was barren for many years. And God did a miracle and gave her a son. After Samuel, Hannah’s son, was weaned, he was left in the house of the Lord. He assisted the priest Eli in God’s house. Every year, Samuel’s mom made a little robe, travelled to where he was and gave it to him. Wow! This act of Hannah inspires each one of us who are part of a family to unselfishly do loving acts that will put a smile on the faces of other family members. As husbands, we must resolve this New Year to do something special for our wives! As wives, we need to resolve this New Year to do something special for our husbands! As children, we need to resolve this New Year to do something special for our parents! As siblings we need to resolve to do something special for your other siblings! Taking good care of our families must be part and parcel of our annual New Year resolution list! Why not place a carefully planned and cheerfully executed family holiday in the list of ‘to do’ things this year? We can learn from Virat Kohli in this regard. He decided to take paternity leave early in 2020 should the time of his wife Anushka’s delivery come even during an important Cricket tour!

THE YEAR OF SIN-BEATING

What are pointers in God’s Word when it comes to New Year resolutions? The New year should be a year of Satan-beating! The God-given New Year should be a year when we win over Satan!

I get the inspiration to form this resolution from the book of Esther. Here we read the following: “Mordecai recorded these events and sent letters to all the Jews in all the provinces of King Xerxes, both near and far, to establish among them an annual celebration on the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the days on which the Jews gained rest from their enemies and the month in which their sorrow turned to joy and their mourning into a holiday” (Esther 9:20-22).  There was an enemy of the Jews. His name was Haman. Haman tried to harm the Jews, because of his negative experience with one Jew – Mordecai. But the enemy of the Jews, Haman hung in the nearly 23-meter-high gallows he prepared for Mordecai (Esther 7:9). God turned the tables on the behalf of the Jews, the apples of his eyes (Duet. 32:10; Zech. 2:8). This event eventually led to the passing of this decree where “letters the king (of Persia) permitted the Jews in each and every city the right to assemble and defend themselves, to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province hostile to them, including women and children, and to plunder their possessions” (Esther 8:11). “Each and every year” this celebration of God-orchestrated miracle victory over their enemies was done among the Jews (Esther 9:24-27).

Our primary enemy is Satan. We sometimes think a certain individual is our enemy. We do not think of Satan who is perhaps behind that individual, instigating that individual to act against us and discourage us (see Math. 16:23). Satan often uses human instruments to work against us. Our main agenda in the New Year that God has graciously added to our lives, should be to win over Satan. Satan’s main agenda is this: to make us sin! So, our New Year resolutions should involve a plan and program to have victory over sin! In the New Year we must, enabled by the Spirit of God, seek to win over the “sin that so easily entangles” – the sin that we often feel like repeating, be it porn-watching or outbursts of anger or whatever (Heb. 12:1). Our New Year may not be pain-free, but it can be porn-free! Our New year may not be agony-free, but it can be anger-free (I am talking about sinful anger here). So, in the New Year, we need to win over sin. This can be done when we have an ongoing cooperation with the Spirit of God who enables us to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13).

What should be our priorities in the New Year? The book of Leviticus gives us another clue. If a well-off foreigner who lived in Israel hired a slave from Israel, the people of Israel needed to pay money to the foreigner to have him released, even if the year of Jubilee when all slaves would be eligible for a free release was still far away. Why? God’s children cannot be slaves year after year. This I understand from my reading of Leviticus 25:47-53.

We must get involved in the work of releasing people from bondage to sin through our giving of our time, talents, treasures and truth. We must make this task a priority in the New Year that God has graciously added to our lives.

What I have talked about in this essay should be our priorities, year after year! Do a review at the end of the day/week/month/year as to how much time you have given to the activities that God’s Word is saying that we must make as our priority “year after year”.

(This article by Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj was originally published in the Aim Magazine published by Evangelical Fellowship of India in its January 2021 edition. Duke is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, the G4 Mission. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org.)

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Deep Disciples of Jesus Shaping Article

READY TO SHUN AND SHAKE OFF BIBLICAL ILLITERACY?

Duke Jeyaraj

September 8 is observed as World Literacy Day. How many of us appreciate the fact that the Bible Translation works have indeed accelerated the literacy levels in many a place across the globe?

The translation of Bible into English by the likes of John Wycliffe (1328-1384) and William Tyndale (1494-1536) in the 14th century and 15th century paved way for even shopkeepers in England to become 95% literate. Bob Creson writes, “Literacy in England is directly attributable to the Bible” (The Washington Post, December 11, 2014). This phenomenon was repeated in India. Here is a report: ‘Teaching  people to read was one of the responsibilities the evangelists undertook so that by the time they left a village there were Christians who could read. Conversion and literacy were adopted together. Among the Khasis in Northeast India missionaries taught that “You cannot be a Christian without reading the Bible!” So, people were taught to read in Schools.’ (Darrell L. Whiteman’s essay in the Philip C. Stine-edited book,  ‘Bible Translation and the Spread of the Church: The Last 200 Years,’ page 138).

Unfortunately Christians who brought in literacy initiatives so that people could read the Bible, are fast becoming Bible illiterates. ‘Sodom and Gomorrah? Are they sisters?’ – this Biblically illiterate generation asks!

Let me use the word ‘THEOLOGY’ as an outline to underline the need for Biblical Literacy among God’s people.

T-Titus Being Called To Pick Bible-Strong Elders!

Paul  fondly called Titus his ‘son’ (Titus 1:4). He told Titus about what kind of elders he had to appoint for providing Christian Leadership in every town: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9, ESV).

H-Head-nodders, the Bereans Weren’t!

The people of Berea were not head-nodders. They were more noble than those in Thessalonica because they not only “received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see” if the things Paul and Silas taught were in line with Scriptures.

E-phesian Elders Called To Commit Themselves To The Word of Grace!

Paul never stayed continuously in one place to minister as much as he did in Ephesus. And when he wanted to move, he made a gripping farewell speech to this church’s elders. What did he say? He said after he left, ‘fierce wolves will come in not sparing the flock’ (Acts 20:29). What was the antidote for this wolf-attack? A commitment to the ‘Word of His Grace!’ (Acts 20:32).

O-One Hundred Twenty Thousand People, That God Talked About!

God’s last question to Jonah still rings in my ears: “Then shouldn’t I show concern for the great city of Nineveh, which has more than one hundred twenty thousand people who do not know right from wrong, and many animals too?” (Jonah 4:11, NCV).  The big number of people in Nineveh who were morally confused as they had no knowledge of Yahweh’s life-giving laws which in-turn left none in any doubt about right and wrong – from that big number comes a missionary call to teach the Bible to those who know nothing about it! India’s population is approximately 10,000 times more than Nineveh and that means we have a bigger motivation to reach the Word of God to the ignorant millions and teach it to them!

L-Lack of Knowledge Which Hosea Writes About!

One of the most painful cries from God in the whole Bible is recorded in the book of Hosea. God says, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. ‘Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also with ignore your children!” (Hosea 4:6 NIV).

O-Online Millions and the Opportunity For Evangelism They Present!

Sandhya Keelery wrote on July 7, 2020 that there are 550 million internet users in India (Statista.com). This huge number beckons Bible Teachers to dedicate their lives to teach people by modern media  such as Zoom. And there are fully online Bible Training programs by reputed Bible Colleges like South Asian Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS), Southern Asia Bible College (SABC), etc., which trains those who feel called to be Word preachers.

G-Going On Circle!

Apostle Paul talked about an ever-increasing circle of Bible Teachers when he wrote to Timothy: “And the things that you have heard me say among many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be qualified to teach others as well…” (2 Tim. 2:2).

Y-ahweh’s Prediction!

Yahweh’s prediction about a famine of hearing God’s Word is mentioned in the book of Amos (8:12). So, in the short time available now, let us become Bible Literates! Let us learn to handle the Word of Truth and teach it to our generation! 

You may be a lay-person. But you can equip yourself by a self-study of the Word of God. Pick up a good Systematic Theology book. Wayne Grudem, Millard J. Erickson and others have written excellent systematic theology text books. I picked up my first theology book, not after I landed in Bible College, but long before that. As a student of Technology (B. Tech) in Allahabad, I was studying volume 1 of Renewal Theology by Rodman Williams! And I led Bible Studies on the Doctrine of God for a small group in the men’s hostel! That was the training ground for a nation-wide Bible Teaching ministry for me! God has grand and glorious plans for you! And as you shun and shake-off  biblical illiteracy  and  take time to study His Word systematically, you will become a blessing!

Duke Jeyaraj wrote this aritcle of Aim magazine of Evangelical Fellowship of India. This article appeared in the magazine’s Septemeber 2020 edition.

Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj is a trained Agricultural Engineer [B. Tech from SHIATS, Allahabad, India], who did not pursue a career in the line of his education but nevertheless enjoys growing cacti in the balcony of his flat, during his spare time! He could have been a cricket commentator but prefers to wrap Bible Truth around cricket magic moments and other interesting-to-Google Genners contemporary events. God’s call upon him made him utterly restless and he obeyed that call to by founding the Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission (G4 Mission) to finally find serenity after having served as a International Bank Customer Service Executive/Youth Pastor/Bible College Teacher/Missionary/Youth Mag Editor. G4 Mission is not a church but an inter-denominational ministry to present-day people, a ministry which Duke works full time for, as an itinerant presenter/preacher since 2008 putting to use the formal theological training he received from Southern Asia Bible College in Bangalore [M. Div & Doctor of Ministry]. Duke is called ‘dad’ by Dale (16) and Datasha (12) and ‘hubby’ by Evangelin and calls Hyderabad, India, his adopted home. Duke has preached by invitation beyond his national borders (we are talking about nations such as Bangladesh, Singapore, Germany, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates). In case your curiosity is triggered by hearing all this, you may checkout www.dukewords.com [if you are the reading plain text type], www.soundcloud.com/shoutaloud [if you are part of the audio-listening tribe] and www.youtube.com/visitduke [if you group yourself with the video-steaming generation]).

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Cricket-Wrapped-Bible-Devotions

2nd Chance Giving Captain Dhoni, 2nd Chance Giving….

Duke Jeyaraj connects a Bible Truth with an event in AirTel Champions League T20 2010

It went to a spine-tingling Super Over finish, this particular T20 game. The Chennai Super Kings Vs Victoria Bushrangers AirTel Champions League Game 2010 went to the Super Over after the scores were level after 40 Overs of nerve-wracking, top-quality cricket on 18 September 2010. As Chennai Super Kings captain Dhoni looked around for volunteers to bowl it, Ravichandran Ashwin, the gangling Tamil Nadu off-spinner put up his hand. He volunteered. And Dhoni gave the ball to him choosing him over his Australian teammate Doug Bollinger. What followed was an absolute disaster. He was ‘looted’ for 23 runs. He forgot his clever bowling variations in those tense moments. He forgot his ‘carrom ball’ – the ball he bowled to get the wicket of Aaron Finch who scored 41 off 17 balls, earlier in the game. He bowled flat and full or flat and short. He was carted for three sixes by David Hussey. The last ball he bowled disappeared over long on for a huge six. In reply, Chennai could only 13 runs off the 6 balls they faced. Ashwin’s pathetic bowling had cost Chennai the match. As he collapsed in the ground in agony and disappointment Captain Dhoni had words of consolation for Ashwin. Not only that, he reposed his faith in Ashwin by giving him the opening over in Chennai Super Kings’ very next game, a do-or-die game against, the Warriors.

“Yes, you let me down in the Super Over in the last game. But I trust you. Here is your second chance,” so seemed to say captain Dhoni, by this baffling gesture. In the hindsight, it was a brilliant gesture. And Ashwin lived up to his captain’s faith by claiming three crucial wickets in his four overs giving away just 24 runs, one run more than what he given in one single over in the previous game! After he dismissed Ashwell Prince in the third over of the innings, He removed Mark Boucher and Justin Kreusch (who both had stitched-up a brave 44-run fortunes-reviving partnership) when the game hung in the balance in the 18th Over.  Chennai could defend a not-so-impressive 136 in a must-win T20 game because of his brainy bowling. What a comeback it was, for Ashwin! It was comeback motivated by a captain who gave a second chance.

In the Finals, the Warriors had gotten to a ‘violent’ start, thanks to Davy Jacobs stunning batting, first-up. But the man who turned the game on the head for Chennai was Ashwin, again. In the very first ball he bowled to Warriors’ captain and player-in-form Jacobs, he beat his reverse sweep attempt by bowling quickly through the air and trapping him right in the front for stumps. He was given out LBW. That reverse sweep reminded me of the similarly disastrous reverse sweep that Mike Gatting played when England was cruising to a win against Australia in the first ball that part time bowler Allan Border bowled in the World Cup ODI Final in Eden Gardens 1987, only to edge a simple catch to the wicket-keeper. England never recovered after that wicket. And Warriors too did not recover after that ruinous reverse sweep by Jacobs. Chennai were back in the game from then on. Ashwin just gave away a miserly 16 runs from his four Overs and finished the tourney with 13 wickets – the highest wickets tally. And what was more, he was awarded the Man of the Series! And to think he could have been dropped from the squad after the flopped Super Over show, but for Dhoni’s great faith in him!

How captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni dealt with Ashwin in Airtel Champions League T20 Series 2010 is how your Creator deals with you. Like how Dhoni gave to Ashwin a second chance, God wants gives you a second chance. He gave a second chance to Jonah, the reluctant, disobedient prophet. The Scripture records: Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” (Jonah 3:1-2 ESV). He had let down his God in a big way the first time. He went in the direction, opposite to the direction God wanted him to go. He disobeyed God deliberately. But God gave him a ‘second chance’ after the fish that swallowed him vomited him on the shore.

The God of the Bible can be called ‘the God of second chance.’ I am saying that because I have read how he dealt with Peter. He God gave a second chance to Peter. After Peter denied Jesus three times, He found him out and gave him a second chance by telling him, “Feed my sheep!” (John 21:15-19). Peter never looked back after that second chance he was offered. He firmed followed Christ till his death. He was crucified upside down as a martyr for Jesus, history tells us.

Paul, one of Jesus’ greatest followers, gave Mark, a second chance. Mark had deserted him during one of his missionary journeys. Paul refused to take him along in the next missionary journey he undertook after this event which greatly damaged Mark’s image. But at the end of his life, Paul, inspired by the Spirit, writes to Timothy requesting him to bring Mark, as he languished in prison staring at the face of death, because, as Paul put it,  “he is useful to me!” (2 Tim 4:11). Yes, he wanted to give Mark a second chance. Mark grabbed this second chance with both hands. God used him to give us the Gospel according to Mark – a swift-moving account of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus. We wouldn’t have had that book, but for Paul’s God-inspired gesture to give Mark, a second chance.

Yes, God wants to give you a second chance. You may have failed Him the first time. You may have embarrassed Him when you got the initial opportunity. But He still wants to give you yet another opportunity. Yet another chance. Would you grab it from God, the way Ashwin grabbed it from captain Dhoni in Airtel Champions League T20 series 2010? Would you seize it, the way Peter seized it from Jesus or the way Mark seized it from Paul? Or would you let even your second chance slip by and count for nothing like Jonah eventually did, by getting angry with God for being merciful to Nineveh? The choice is yours.

[This article was written by Duke Jeyaraj in 2010 and is part of Duke’s 2012 book, The Goodnews for the Google Generation (now out of print). Duke is the founder of Grabbing the Google Gen from Gehenna Mission, the G4 Mission. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org]

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Strong Believers Creating Articles

YOU, A JESUS DISCIPLE? Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj

Dr. Duke Jeyaraj put the biblical ingredients of discipleship in an acronym D-I-S-C-I-P-E

Who is a disciple of Jesus? What the Bible teaches on this can be put in acronym, D-I-S-C-I-P-L-E.

D for“Dearest”

Jesus’ words in Luke 14:26—“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” is THE requirement for Discipleship. We love our phones and even perhaps our ministry more than Jesus! Sad! No one or nothing should take the position of Jesus in their lives. He should be the one who is truly the dearest in their lives.

I for “Instruction-follower

Someone wrote, Used thirty times in the Book of Acts, the word “disciple” speaks of one who is “learner, seeker or student” is “learner” learns the Words of Christ. This “seeker” seeks knowledge about Christ. He obeys instructions without asking questions. He says, “We must obey God rather than man!” (Acts 5:29).

S for “Stay-in-Jesus-Presence”

Mark records the purpose why Jesus chose disciples: “And he (Jesus) appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him…. (Mark 3:14).” Suzanne Watts Henderson writes, “he (Jesus) establishes (here) the Twelve (disciples) for the primary purpose of continuing in his presence.” To do much for God, we must be must with God (as they say).

C for Carrying the Cross

This brings us to another call that Jesus issued to those who desired to be his disciples: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27).” But hasn’t Jesus carried our Cross and thundered “it is finished”? John Stott’s explanation here is helpful: “In this way, one might say, every Christian is both a Simon of Cyrene and a Barnabas. Like Barnabas we escape the cross, for Christ died in our place. Like Simon of Cyrene we carry the cross, for he calls us to take it up and follow him.”

I for Invite via Evangelism Efforts

The disciples were called by Jesus to invite others to the Kingdom of God (Mark 3:14). He further writes, “…the character of discipleship as a community organized to support missionaries reaching out to others with evangelistic urgency and to maintain a witness by the very quality of a community life was there from the beginning.”

P for People-Lover

Certain Bible characters who were addressed as “disciples” have excelled in serving people they met in practical ways. Herbert Lockyer writes these lines about little-known Bible character Mnason: “This early disciple from Cyprus accompanied Paul on his last journey, and Paul lodged at his hospitable home (Acts 21:16).”

L for “Led”- Being Led by the Lord and the Spirit

Luke records that the “disciple” Ananias was led by the Lord through a vision to be of spiritual help to a new convert of the Christian faith, Saul (Acts 9:10-17). Disciple Ananias clearly told Saul it was the Lord Jesus who sent him to be of help to him (Acts 9:17).

E for Endurance

Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 14:62). A true disciple of Jesus must be willing to endure till the end, come what may. Rose Dowsett put it this way: “Jesus’ call to his disciples is a call to embark on a journey, a pilgrimage, lasting all the rest of our lives.”

Let us be faithful-unto-death disciples of Jesus in the One life we have!

Are you a Jesus Disciple?

(Dr. Duke Jeyaraj, who lives in Hyderabad, India, is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org.)

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Strong Believers Creating Articles

THE FRUIT OR THE BOOT – FOR THE LORD THIS YEAR? Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj 

 

The owner came to the garden with expectations. High hopes. “Surely fruits will dangle down the fig tree I planted! It has been three years! I just can’t wait to taste the fruits!” He was smacking his lips in anticipation. What did he get to see? Fruits? Hardly. Instead the tree gave him the boot – it was barren. Now he was biting his lips with frustration. The owner became furious. “Chop this fruitless fig tree down,” he ordered the gardener. “Why waste fertilizer and water on it for ANOTHER YEAR?” The gardener would not give up on the tree he had tended tenacious for over three years. He pleaded, “Just give it one more year, Master – just one more year! That is all. I will tend it. Take good care it. And I am sure it will give us fruit in this year of extension! You bet!”

 

The above-narrated story is a contemporary form of a parable of Jesus (Luke 13:6-9). A story our Master narrated. A yarn our Master spinned to shake us from our yawning! He told this story to drive home a crucial lesson? This lesson: we have got a New Year to live just because of sheer grace. He has marked out a New Year for us just because of his massive mercy. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is true that when he spoke of that fig tree he was speaking of the nation Israel. The prophets of the old often compared Israel to a fig tree-didn’t they (See Hosea 9:10 for an example)? But it also true we, followers of Christ, are the nation that God hoped would bear fruit. That is the reason, we read that he took the Kingdom of God from national Israel and gave it to a “new” Israel (that is actually us, believers, called as a ‘holy nation’ by Peter in 1 Peter 2:9) (Math. 21:13). But we – the new Israel – haven’t done any better than national Israel. We have been neglectful about our duty to give fruit as national Israel! The “Gentile” Israel – us – has been as giving God the boot (instead of the fruit) like the Geographical Israel so often did!

 

Israel, the fig tree, was blessed have plenty of water and fertilizer year after year. The Law of Moses they received through Moses in generous doses was the “water” the fig tree of Israel was flooded with (Rom. 9:4). The pack of prophets who faithfully proclaimed this law in a practical and powerful way to the people of Israel year after year – well, they were the “fertilizers” so to speak (2 Kings 17:13ff). But they would not simply grow up and bear fruit. They became “ fat”, oh yes! But “faithful” Nah! Look over your shoulder. At the previous years of your existence. Surely you were watered. Certainly you were fertilized. Think of the Bible Studies you sat in. Think of many sermons you heard. Think of the church services you attended.  Think of the camps and conferences you took part in. You too became  “fat”. But were you “fruitful”? Well that is another story, correct? !

 

Listen, Jesus (the Gardener in this parable) did not narrate this story to paint his Father in a poor picture. Hear this good: The Father (the Owner in this story) is not an ultra-strict principal out to hound you and dismiss you from his school for the first failure you had without any mercy. He is not like a class teacher who gives you a “you-will-never-make-it-in-life” lecture after your examination flops. His Father is as loving and as gracious as He is. When we interpret a parable we should just look for one lesson from it-that’s the thumb rule of interpreting parables. The Father God gave a similar extension in the life of King Hezekiah, remember ? (Isa 38:1-5). “Through the Lord’s mercies (the Father’s mercies) we   are not consumed,” Jeremiah wrote-don’t forget (Lam 3:22). You see, the Father is as understanding as the Son is. The Son – all of us very well know – lives “forever to intercede” for us we read up (Heb 7:25).

 

The year you and I have to get to exist in, is a year of grace. Sure we are living in the Space age. But it also true we are living in the grace age – an age graciously given us so that we will for a change give our Maker good fruit instead of giving him the boot!

 

If this one-year extension given us so that we bear “fruit” what sort of fruit should we bear? The fruit of PENITENCE. That is what John the Baptist preached to the Jewish Religions’ big shots (Luke 3:8). They could not hide behind the fact that Abraham was their ancestor without bearing fruit, he warned. In other words what John was getting at was this: “You can’t swap your religious heritage for personal change!” In the New Year that we have entered, we called to produce “fruits of repentance”. That would mean all the tantrum throwing of the past years should be trashed. That would mean all the porn-watching of the past years should be pushed aside. That would mean all the foul-languages that filled your mouth should be flushed away. And when we do that believe me, slowly but surely the “fruit” of the Spirit-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control-will show up in your Christian walk when you carry an attitude of penitence the whole year out!

 

Why would the Lord mark “plus 1” for us who live in the OnePlus6 (that talked about ‘flagship’-killer Smartphone released in 2018)? To bear fruit. The fruit of PONDERING. Pondering on his word. Meditating on the Bible, God’s Word in human words. I first picked up this new version of the Bible in the year 2014. I enjoy reading this version. It is called The Voice. Let me quote from Psalm 1:1-3 from that version for you: God’s blessings follow you and await you at every turn: when you don’t follow the advice of those who delight in wicked schemes, when you avoid sin’s highway, when judgment and sarcasm beckon you, but you refuse. For you, the Eternal’s Word is your happiness. It is your focus—from dusk to dawn. You are like a tree, planted by flowing, cool streams of water that never run dry. Your fruit ripens in its time; your leaves never fade or curl in the summer sun. No matter what you do, you prosper.” There you have it: when you spend time making God’s Word your focus, dusk to dawn, you are like the tree the fruits of which ripens in its time! The Bible has approximately 1200 chapters. If you read 10 chapters of the Bible every day, you would read the Bible in full in 120 days flat (four months). That is simple math! If that is tough, try reading five chapters a day and you can wrap up reading all the Bible in 8 months. If you read four chapters a day, and five during weekends, you will comfortably complete reading all the Bible in a year. Why not try it out this new year? I found the following challenging lines at satisfactionthroughchrist.com: “Up for a challenge? The Horner system is sort of an osmosis system, the idea being inundation rather than meditation. With it, you’ll read ten chapters per day from ten different books. Over the course of a year, you’ll read through all the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times each, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, all the Psalms at least twice, all the Proverbs as well as Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the Old Testament History and Prophetic books about 1 1⁄2 times.”

 

 

An extension year for what ? To bear fruit. “Fruit – what do you mean?” Ask the writer of Hebrews.  “Therefore by him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name” (Heb.13:15). You have guessed it correct – the fruit of PRAISE. Would you to thank God for at least five blessings you have received from Him each day of the New Year? For the safe ride you had back home. For the food on your table. For the friends and folks you dote over you. If you did that you are bearing “fruit”. And God’s disappointment with you will dry. God’s frustration with you will fizzle out!

 

Annexure year for what?  To produce “fruit”. “What do you mean?” Ask Jesus himself. He told his disciples once remember , ‘Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for the harvest! And he who receives wages, and gathers FRUIT for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:35:36). The point of Christ was making was this: “One look around you will get to see the likes of the Samaritan Woman-seeking, searching! Truckloads of disappointed and dejected people desperately looking for the Living Water. They will drink from Me-believe Me –if only you go and tell them about Me!” The fruit of PROCLAMATION is what I eagerly expected of us in our gracious-given extra year! That’s the reason God chose us: so that we bear “fruit” (win souls) and that our “fruit” remains (and the souls we win make it all the way to Heaven!) (John 15:16). In this supplementary year God’s grace has supplied to you why not become a serious soul winner? Why not gather with a few of your High School/College Christ-following pals to pray and study his word for a few minutes during your lunch break or after class? Why not stand in the most happening youth hangout in town and pass out contemporary gospel tracts? Why not proclaim Christ through life and lip using every opportunity?

 

Jesus signs off from this parable with a telling warning: “And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down!” (Luke 13:9). Can you really be “cut” down this year if you give Jesus the boot this year instead of fruit? There is a real possibility, buddy. There is an actual chance for that, my friend. What if you die – be cut down – suddenly this year would you be found giving fruit for the Savior or giving him the boot? If you say, “Well, that will not happen to me – ever,” then you must listen to the story of Ahab. Ahab, year after year, was giving Yahweh the finger. Giving His God the boot. Five prophets at least – the famous Elijah, prophet Obadiah, prophet Micaiah and two unnamed prophets – tried to correct him and coax him on to the way of God. But he stayed stubborn. He was solidly stiff-necked. And you know what – his life was cut off crudely when he least expected it or wanted it. He had boasted to prophet Micaiah that he would return safely from a battle God did not want him to fight. He was cocksure of that because he went to a battle in a disguise and He thought he was well protected by an armor. But a randomly shot arrow hit in the joints between the joints of his armor and he shortly died (1 Kings 22:27, 34, 35). Till his sudden death, mind you, he was giving his Maker the boot.

 

That is what false prophet Hananiah did too. Wanting to impress the people of Judah he prophesied: “Jeremiah is telling you that this captivity in Babylon will last for 70 long years. Forget it! It is gonna last just for two years. That              is all! Take it easy, folks! Deep down in his gut, Prophet Hananiah knew he was just conning the people. He knew he had not heard from God on this subject but was simply bluffing in an attempt to become the favorite prophet of the people at the expense of Jeremiah. He was giving the God who called him to be a prophet the boot – not fruit! This was the New Year promise he received from the Lord: “Your life will end THIS VERY YEAR because you have rebelled against the Lord” (Jer. 27:16)! Two months later, he died – still giving God the finger (v 17). A sad end. A sorry finish. Do you know that for any of us this New Year promise may come true: “Your life will end this VERY YEAR!” (Jer. 27:19). The reason? Our life is unpredictable. Biblically speaking it can end at any time – including this very minute or this year – did any one care to tell you? I care. Our life is comparable to a fleeting fog or a fading flower, the Bible tells us (Job 14:1/ Jas. 4:14). It can be short. It can be cut short! If you told me, “Duke, don’t give some Old Testament mumbo-jumbo!” I will show you the sad lives of post-Cross, in-the-New-Testament narrative, Ananias-Sapphira (Acts 5) and King Herod (Acts 12). The lives of these folks were also cut short when they failed to make the “extra year” added to their lives count – it can be seen that way!

 

I pray that will not be sad story of any of us this extra year God has gracious given us! Instead, let us wisely use this year to bear fruit – instead of giving Christ the boot – in graciously added New Year!

 

(Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, a ministry that reaches out to presentday people via writings, pulpit preaching and counselling. Find out more at www.dukev.org or by WhatsApp to +91-8886040605. He is a fulltime itinerant preacher and writer-in-residence with this ministry).