Discipleship and Drones

I listened to a fascinating podcast this morning from FiveThirtyEight about the American military, its usage of drones and the sheer amount of data taken in by those drones. The podcast is an interview with William Arkin, the author of “Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare“.

The premise is that when decisions are made based only on information, there is no longer a strategic context or purpose driving those choices- the “how?” and “why?”  of the deployment of power is minimalized.

What’s more, the Just War concept is discussed; the context of which is that Just War always allows for the creation (or re-creation) of a “better” culture and society post-war (was was done after the defeat of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany using the Marshal Plan). Even though we fought “total war”- we still fought with the mindset that there would be a rebuilding- there was indeed, an “end” to the “means”.

As I reflect upon this, I wonder how many churches simply act on information in the moment (and see an immediate tangible result like a new member or baptism or an increase in attendance) rather than actually create a long-term sustainable strategy that will yield fruit for years to come. To use the words from the podcast, is it possible that the church has become “all targeting, no strategy”? And to paraphrase them,

“We’ve become so good at this kind of targeted “discipleship”, and the “programming” (has) become so precise, that we mistake our ability to find “people” and “disciple” them with an actual “discipleship”  strategy.”

Check it out…

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Thoughts on Narnia, Intro

When I was young, I had a few favorite books; The Hardy Boys series, Charles Berlitz’s The Bermuda Triangle, Z for Zachariah (movie adaptation released this weekend) and CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.

I remember writing a paper during my senior year of high school on the analogies between CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and the Bible. I’ve only read a few other things by Lewis- The Screwtape Letters, Perelandra, and just in the past few months, Mere Christianity.

Based on a quote I recently found from The Silver Chair (book 4 in the series) I decided to re-read them- to enjoy, to study and to see how Lewis wove his theology of Jesus into the text. I’ll post some thoughts about this over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

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Belief and Obedience

If you “believe” in Jesus, you’ve been born of God; it’s a package deal. If you love the Father, you love the Son. And “love” is defined by “obedience” (I’ve said that before). You obey His commands if you really love him. And what’s more, these commands are not burdensome. It is not difficult to obey God, it’s not impossible. Why? Because those born of Jesus are overcomers of the world along with him. You are an overcomer every time you find victory in God. The real overcomers are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus came by both water and blood- both of these are necessary. And, the Spirit verifies this, demonstrating true accountability. To the water and blood we add Spirit and these all agree that Jesus is of God. While we can accept the testimony of man, God’s testimony is greater because of who He is and what He has said. If you believe in Jesus, you’ll find that your heart confirms this, and those who deny the WHO of Jesus accuse God of lying. Here is God’s testimony: He, God, has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son, Jesus. Those who have the Son have life, those who do not have the son do not have life.

I’m telling you all of this that you know how to have eternal life. We can confidently approach God and ask Him for all things according to his will. We’ll know that he hears when we receive what we ask for.

We will see our brothers committing sins, some of those sins lead to death, while others do not. We are to pray for him and God will give him life. For other sins, don’t just pray. While all things wrong are indeed sin, all sins do not lead to death.

Those who belong to God do not continue in sins because those born of him are safe from the evil one.

We belong to God, and the world to Satan.

We know that Jesus has come and teaches up all things- his teachings are true.

Because His teachings are true, those who adhere to them also become true. Jesus is the true God and eternal life.

Do not worship idols!

Adapted from 1 John 5.

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Love and Obedience, continued

John refers to his readers as “friends” and “children” multiple times throughout 1 John. He is clearly a man in deep relationship and uses these words to remind them of this because the things that he is saying appear to be strong; without the context of relationship there is the temptation to ignore what he is saying. In essence, John is telling his readers:

  • test every spirit to know whether or not they are from God. Why? False teachers are EVERYWHERE and are bent on deception
  • those that acknowledge that Jesus is of God are the true spirits. And by acknowledge, John means a life changed.
  • we can know that we are “of God” by our response to that message. Are our lives changed? If so, we are His. If not, we are not His.
  • the proof of being His is that we love one another because love is from God. John repeats this phrase numerous times throughout 1 John; this is his theme.
  • love is defined as the sacrifice of Jesus. With that love as our model, when we sacrifice ourselves for others in love, then, and only then, are we truly loving.
  • the love that was planted in us (1 John 3:9) by God  grows and is made complete when our love for others mirrors Christ’s love for us
  • because of His love for us, and our love for others, we can be confident on the day of judgment because this love gives life
  • you cannot “love God” but hate your brother.
  • truly loving God will lead to true love of, and for, your brother.

From 1 John 4.

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Love and Obedience

“How can we know?” That’s often the question we ask. We want to belong to God, but our human understanding falls short; we get anxious, worrying about if we are really “in”. We do not have to worry; God has provided us a tool to discern- His Word. It’s truth is “sharp enough to cut right through us, deeply to the core.” What we can do is use this tool, interact with it, understand how it functions, and finally, allow it to dissect us. Here’s how John describes it in 1 John 3–

We get to be God’s children- that’s how amazing his love is. And this new identity causes us to not be known by the world. We don’t know everything, and we won’t have to, but when He comes back we’ll be just like him. It’s for this reason that we ought to purify ourselves. We desire to stop sinning. Why?

Sin = breaking the law. And when we break the law, we seek to become a law until ourselves. God came to take away our sin because he has no sin. When we identify with Him as his children, we do not, we cannot continue to be lawbreakers. If we do, it’s as though we’ve never seen Him or known him.

Don’t allow yourselves to be led astray, be righteous as God is righteous. Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil who had been doing evil since the beginning.

Those who are borne of God cease sinning because his seed is planted within and it grows and grows and grows. As it grows, the sinful nature goes away, pushed out from the inside to the fringes. This is how we know who God’s children are: the way that we love.

Love others; it’s the message from the beginning. Cain failed this test when he murdered his brother. Cain murdered Abel because Abel’s actions honored God and Cain hated him for it. In the same way, those who love God will truly be hated by the world. Do not be surprised by this. We who love our brothers are truly alive; those who hate are truly dead. And those who hate stand with Cain- guilty of murder, and without eternal life.

But, what is love? Real love? When Jesus laid down his life for the murderer, this was and is love. And we are that murderer. And now, we mimic him and lay down our lives for others. How?

  • having material possessions and using those possessions to have pity on those who have none and helping them
  • not mere words or tongue, but in actions and truth

These things: meeting needs, actions, truth…are how we know who belongs. They allow us to rest our hearts, find peace and still our souls. In and through them, God quiets our stirring spirits and questioning hearts because he is greater than them. He knows us fully.

How can we know we are His?

  • our hearts are quiet and still; this shows that the seed is spreading from within- our heart leaves us alone
  • we receive what we ask for because we obey him and do what pleases him

Those who obey  live in Him and he in them. We are alive by the Spirit he gives.

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The goal is conversion

Have you been converted?

There is one simple way to know.

You are obedient to Jesus. More words from John the Apostle:

I don’t want you to sin. That’s the point of this instruction.

The bad news? You will.

The Good News? When you do, Jesus is there, speaking to God for you, interceding for you because he is not only righteous, but because he paid for your sins. He does this for those that are “his”. Are you?

It’s easy to know. You are “his” if you do what he says. If you do not obey him, you’re not “his”. You cannot claim to know him then ignore him. If you are his, you walk as he did- and he walked in complete obedience to the Father.

This should not be news to those who are truly his; if you belong to him, you’ve heard it 82 million times before.

But, if it is truly “new” to you, it’s not to him. “Living life in obedience” is what Jesus was and is about; he preached it and demonstrated it. And you, if you are his, ought to be preaching and demonstrating it. An easy way to know if your relationship with your brother. Do you hate him? If “yes” then you are still in the dark. Those who truly love others live in the light and they won’t stumble.

  • I’m telling you this because your sins have been forgiven
  • I’m telling you this because you have known Jesus, forever present
  • I’m telling you this because you overcame the evil one
  • I’m telling you this because you know the Father, also forever present
  • I’m telling you this because you have incredible strength , the Word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the world!

Because it’s overcome, do not love it. If you choose “world” over “God”, you lose. You do not have the Father. How can you tell? What do you hunger for? What fills you up? To where, what and whom to you default? Remember this, God lives forever.

The end is near and antichrists are everywhere. Some even came from us. They heard the Good News, and even accepted it. Then, they left. Here’s a truth- those that left never really belonged to us. No matter the sincerity of their tears or words, actions or activities. The true believers don’t leave. Because they’ve been anointed. Blessed and covered by the Spirit.

Don’t forget what’s been poured into you from the start. If you remember, you’ll remain and have eternal life. Be wary. Of everyone and everything because people are trying to lead you astray. Always depend on the anointing; it will never lead you astray. The anointing is legitimate.

Be confident. He is righteous. His sacrifice is your righteousness. Continue.

Adapted from 1 John 2

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“But, I’m not a sinner…”

It’s so easy for me to compare myself to the sins of others, to use them as my measuring stick. We all do this, we all justify our actions and inactions because we have mitigating circumstances that serve us well. But Jesus has none of it:

In Luke 18, Jesus tells a story; notice how Luke begins the passage:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else

For those of us who think we have it all together, that have done all of the correct rituals and have perfect Sunday attendance, that have mastered the skills necessary to convince everyone of how holy we really are- know that our carefully constructed suit of fig leaves has not fooled God.

John, in his first letter, addresses this situation:

Jesus has always existed, from before the beginning. And, he’ll exist after the end. I’m telling you this because I desire for you to join those of us who believe in him. I want you to be in a real relationship with the Father, and with the Son: Jesus Christ. But that’s not all.

There is no darkness on God, only light. Because of this, you cannot live in darkness as one who claims to be in the light- this makes you a liar. When we join him in this light, it means that we’ve been purified by him, his blood.

There are many that claim that the sins of others are “worse”, and even that they have no sins. This is the deceit of self. We must stop the self-deceit and confess them to Jesus, and he will forgive us. Why? Because he said that he would. And he alone is honest, faithful and just. But he won’t just forgive, he’ll make us righteous.

If we continue to deny that we are in fact sinners, we are accusing God of lying. And when we accuse him of lying, he’ll not be in relationship with us.

Adopted from 1 John 1.

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