Making disciples is vital. That’s why I recently announced the founding of a new ministry called “Discipleship Journeys with Jesus” (DJJ). The Lord laid it on my heart to start this new ministry in order to meet the crucial need of making committed disciples around the world.
Baptism scene in India last month
In His Great Commission Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
Jesus’ parting command was to “make disciples.” But what is a disciple? The original Greek word is MATHETES. It means “someone catechized with proper instruction from the Bible with its necessary follow-through (life-applications).”
An easy description is a devoted follower. MATHETES was used for followers of John the Baptist in Matthew 9:14 and of others such as the Pharisees in Matthew 22:16.
We must not be confused by unbiblical, or even biblical substitutes for true biblical disciples:
Some mock the virgin birth while other people who call themselves Christians question or deny it. Others misunderstand and are confused. So what is the virgin birth? In this podcast my great friend Dr. Jayakumar Ramachandran gives us the Biblical answer to this question. He also explains why the virgin birth is so important to the Christian faith.
Dr. Jayakumar Ramachandran
Recently Jay was in my home and we sat down to talk over these issues.
To listen to this podcast just hit the play button above.
Here are some Scripture passages that explain the virgin birth:
Does God ever allow us to go in one direction and then give us a new direction? Recently I wrote on “How to Know God’s Will in Difficult Decisions.” As challenging as it might seem to find God’s will, sometimes it seems God leads us in one direction only to soon lead us in another.
A church I’m helping called a pastor to a ministry assignment about a year ago. We hoped for many years of ministry partnership, but recently he announced his soon departure. Did we misunderstand God’s calling? Did he misunderstand? Is he being led wrongly? Are we?
Sometimes it’s confusing.
So here are 3 things to consider about being led in a new direction:
My wife Carolyn is better at making difficult decisions than me. I tend to think it all through very carefully, weighing the pros and cons, taking time to analyze all aspects and so on. Carolyn, on the other hand, comes to a conclusion quickly, announces her decision without hesitation and it’s over. I’ve often been a little envious of her in this.
A good example is when we first met. Carolyn was quickly convinced that I was the one for her and that we should get married. (She made it clear to me.) But I was slower to come to that conclusion. In fact, she is happy to take credit for our marriage happening. She’s convinced that if she wouldn’t have pushed me along, we would never have gotten married.
In my weaker moments like right now, I admit that she’s probably right.
Maybe you’re more like Carolyn or maybe you’re more like me. If you’re more like me, this article should be especially helpful.
I’ve gotten better at making decisions, both big and small ones, based on my biblical understanding of a passage of Scripture in the Epistle of James.
So from James 1, here are 3 steps to know God’s will in difficult decisions:
Some missionaries serve in their own country. Others like myself live in their home country and travel to other places. Others like the Apostle Paul have an almost completely itinerant ministry. And others like my guest on today’s podcast are foreign missionaries. Some may wonder why do we need foreign missionaries?
Steve Barrett, missionary to Japan.
My guest on this podcast is Steve Barrett who is serving Jesus with his wife in Japan. They are foreign missionaries. Steve grew up here in North San Diego County. He learned Japanese language in college and after marrying and moving to Japan.
Steve works with church planting and evangelism. You can hear more of his story on this podcast.
On this podcast you’ll also hear why we need foreign missionaries.
Japan is a great example of the need for foreign missionaries. According to the Disciple All Nations website, “In 29 of Japan’s 47 prefectures [like provinces or municipalities] at least 50% of the towns do not have a church. Two prefectures have no churches at all. Just one prefecture has a church in every town. Thus we conclude that not only have a large majority of those in Japan never heard the Good News about Jesus Christ, but they have little opportunity to hear the Good News, since there are so many towns that do not have a single Church.”
I sure know what it is like to feel inadequate. After high school I attended Moody Bible Institute. In summers I went back to my parents’ home in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. One summer, some friends and I were talking. One of them said, “I know what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna be a preacher.”
Church planter (me) wife (Carolyn) and new baby (Gabriel) 1981. We met in this recreation center here in Vista, California.
My response was like Peter who denied the Lord 3 times before the rooster crowed. I immediately answered, “Naw, not me. I can’t stand speaking in front of groups of people.”
In addition, an even greater hindrance was that I didn’t feel spiritually adequate. I thought that:
I didn’t know the Bible well enough.
I didn’t pray enough.
I didn’t have enough spiritual insight and discernment.
I wasn’t the man of God I needed to be.
I don’t know exactly where these feelings of inadequacy came from. But I’ve come to realize that they are quite common. We’re in good company when we feel spiritually inadequate:
Moses felt inadequate and almost refused God’s calling, even after God spoke clearly from the burning bush. (see Exodus 3-4)
Gideon was called, yet felt totally inadequate. He demanded miracles from God before he would respond. (see Judges 6:11-40)
Certainly Peter and the other disciples were totally inadequate to lead in the night of Jesus’ betrayal. When things got risky, they were nowhere to be found. Soon Peter was denying he even knew the Lord Jesus! (see Luke 22:54-62.)
I’m not condemning anyone—I was the same way!
But here’s the point: Each overcame their inadequacy and became great leaders.
Faith means acting when you feel inadequate.
So how can you act in faith when you feel inadequate? Here are 4 ways:
My entire ministry career since 1981 has been connected with church planting. Even before then, the first church Carolyn and I joined after being married in 1979 was a church plant. Even when both of us were children, our parents joined in to help start new churches. Yet some don’t have this background and wonder, “Why do we need new churches?”
This question is understandable, especially in some places and situations where:
There seems to be a church on every corner.
Churches are small and struggling.
People have tried to start new churches but they have failed.
The sacrifice and money used to start new churches doesn’t seem worth it.
So why do we need new churches? Listen to this podcast to find out.
Here are some of the verses related to this topic:
My first mountain-sized goal came in the fifth grade. Students were offered the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. I wanted to play drums, but my parents vetoed that idea. So I chose slide trombone. Soon I was pushing out terrible tones that sounded like a wounded elk caught in a snowstorm. Our music teacher deserved a medal, or maybe a pair of golden earplugs!
Yep, that’s me with my trombone in 1969. Before “affordable” color photography!
Learning that musical instrument was harder than I expected. Soon I was ready to quit. I announced this intention to my dad who said, “No way Jose.” Then he quoted Winston Churchill’s famous speech, “Never give up. Never. Never. Never.”
So back to band rehearsal I went, even though it sounded horrible. It was hard to learn to read the music, and it wasn’t fun.
But jump ahead 5 years and it was a ton of fun. I played in my high school’s excellent marching band. In addition, I was in the symphonic band under a wonderful director, Daniel Nawrocki. He led us to first place in state band competition all 4 years I was in Reynoldsburg High School.
Later at Moody Bible Institute I played in the concert band under the direction of Gerald Edmonds. On winter and spring breaks we toured the Eastern and Southern USA. We even toured California and played at Biola University where I later finished my undergraduate education and met Carolyn. One summer we flew to South America and toured Colombia.
Band turned out to be a fantastic experience! What started as an “impossible” mountain-sized goal turned into one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable experiences of my youth.
Over the years I’ve tackled other mountain-sized goals and each time found tremendous fulfillment, no matter how difficult it seemed.
Perhaps you’re considering a mountain-sized goal and wondering how it can be accomplished. Here are 8 steps to tackle a mountain-sized goal in faith:
As a young church planter in the early 1980’s, I remember feeling like I just could not do the job. People opposed me, church growth seemed terribly slow, I was working so many hours yet seeing what seemed like so little progress. It seemed that either I was out of the will of God or that God’s grace didn’t extend to this calling.
In retrospect, that perspective was an illusion. The church eventually grew, we reached many with the Gospel, we became self-supporting right on schedule, I began to hire staff, God provided a building, I never missed a single paycheck. That church, started in 1981, still has an active ministry after 35 years!
As Billy Graham says in this quote, the will of God did NOT take me anywhere His graced did not sustain me. It just seemed like He wasn’t doing enough.
I don’t know how you’re feeling today. Perhaps you’re dealing with a terrible illness, perhaps the death of a dear friend or family member, perhaps financial shortcoming, perhaps opposition and unfair pressure or persecution.
But God will sustain you and He has a plan.
Recently my daily Bible reading brought me to the story of Joseph. Do you remember what happened to him? He was hated by his brothers, sold by them into slavery (although some would rather have killed him), falsely accused of rape, put in prison for about 2 years, had friends who were executed, and could have been himself.
But God was there to sustain him through it all. When vindicated and again face-to-face with his brothers he concluded, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20a ESV)
Did Joseph suffer? Yes!
Was he horribly betrayed? Yes!
Was he incredibly abandoned? Yes!
Did he have reason to wonder if God was working? Yes!
Yet the will of God never took him where the grace of God could not sustain him.
He faithfully served God, even in slavery and imprisonment. In the end, God lifted him to a remarkable place of second in the Kingdom.
You and I probably won’t ever be elevated to such a high position, but the point remains: “The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.”
When we suffer, when we are abandoned and betrayed, let’s remember that God is still working, still sustaining, still making “all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Romans 8:28 KJV)
For more help for handling pain, grief, discouragement, depression and suffering, see my articles and podcasts on:
Not all Christians believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Why is belief in inerrancy important? Let me begin by explaining what it means. A belief in the inerrancy is a belief that the Scriptures were without error when God gave the them to the writers.
Dr. Jayakumar Ramachandran
Recently a friend told me that he is a Christian be he believes that there are errors in the Bible. He didn’t show me any errors. I think he was actually just responding emotionally to a feeling about Scripture.