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Sunday, December 31, 2023

Happy New Year! - Apart From Christ I Can Do Nothing - Wisdom From Dr. Neil Anderson

Happy New Year! - Apart From Christ I Can Do Nothing - Wisdom From Dr. Neil Anderson    -    New Year's Message - Podcast

New Year's Message on YouTube: 




Good morning, 

Today’s photo of evergreen trees and a partially frozen pond in the distance comes to us from yours truly as I decided to capture the view from my front door hear at Franklin Falls Flow Pond in the Adirondacks after checking in to our New Year’s Eve accommodations yesterday afternoon. 

Well. It’s Sunday and I don’t normally do a message because we usually share our Bible Study with the Cincotti’s but our Bible Study Author, Arthur Cincotti has come down with the flu and so our Bible Study has been postponed, again, until we are on the other side of 2024. 

But, we don’t call the podcast mt4christ247 for nothing, and even though I toyed with the idea of just taking a break, I felt compelled in my spirit to share something and the devotional email I get from Freedom in Christ Ministries seemed to provide a perfect message to say goodbye to 2023 and to put us in the right frame of mind for 2024.   

So I am sharing this message from Dr. Neil Anderson to remind us all who we need to depend on in the new year ahead.  Dr. Anderson writes: 

APART FROM CHRIST I CAN DO NOTHING

I am the vine, you are the branches apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5)

Add the following statements of doctrinal affirmation to those you began reading yesterday. Allow the truth of God's Word to saturate your heart and guide your steps in the coming year.

I believe that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), and that He is the head over all rule and authority (Colossians 2:10).

I believe that Satan and his demons are subject to me in Christ because I am a member of Christ's body (Ephesians 1:19-23). I therefore obey the command to resist the devil (James 4:7), and I command him in the name of Christ to leave my presence.

I believe that apart from Christ I can do nothing (John 15:5), so I declare my dependence on Him.

I choose to abide in Christ in order to bear much fruit and glorify the Lord (John 15:8).

I announce to Satan that Jesus is my Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3), and I reject any counterfeit gifts or works of Satan in my life.

I believe that the truth will set me free (John 8:32), and that walking in the light is the only path of fellowship (1 John 1:7). Therefore, I stand against Satan's deception by taking every thought captive in obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

I declare that the Bible is the only authoritative standard (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

I choose to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

I choose to present my body as an instrument of righteousness, a living and holy sacrifice, and I renew my mind by the living Word of God in order that I may prove that the will of God is good, acceptable and perfect (Romans 6:13; 12:1,2).

Father God, I affirm that my life and sustenance come from You, and apart from You I can do nothing.

Neil Anderson

 

So, let’s do what the good Dr. prescribes and trust in the Lord to help us accomplish what he has for us to do in 2024 and let’s keep walking and talking with God.  

Happy New Year and God Bless You All!

 

M.T. Clark    

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Ask Seek Knock blog (https://tammylynask.blogspot.com/ ),  her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

Saturday, December 30, 2023

The Armor of God & Personally Resisting Satan – Wisdom from Dr Neil Anderson- Purity 1235

 

The Armor of God & Personally Resisting Satan – Wisdom from Dr Neil Anderson- Purity 1235

Purity 1235 12/30/2023 Purity 1235 Podcast

Purity 1235 on YouTube: 



Good morning,

Today’s photo of an extreme close-up of flipside of my “Armor of God” coin comes to us from yours truly as I captured this scene of one of my favorite Christmas gifts on Christmas Day in the afternoon to be sure that all the pieces of armor were listed, or more accurately how they were listed. Bible translations vary and I wanted to see how each piece of armor was presented.

For instance, while we can extrapolate the “shoes” or as my coin presents, the “sandals of the gospel of peace” from verse 15 which says in  

Ephesians 6:15  “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;”

But we have to realize that Paul was making an analogy here and all of the “pieces of the armor of God” were pointing to Jesus and the various aspects of our life of faith in Him that are “covered” by our Lord and Savior.  Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrase of the Bible really makes this clear by removing Paul’s analogy altogether!  His interpretation for

Ephesians 6:13-18 (MSG)
13  Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet.
14  Truth, righteousness,
15  peace,
16  faith,
17  and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them.
You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon.
18  In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long.
Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Love it or hate it. Peterson’s interpretation may leave you cold by stripping off the “armor” analogy” but it does stress that those “pieces” of our relationship with God – Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation, are more than words and need to be applied – aka lived, and God’s word and prayer are the weapons we use to fight our battles.   You may hate Peterson’s paraphrase. I’m not sure that I like it myself, but it does point to authentic faith and the simplicity of discipleship. 

“Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation, are more than words. Learn how to apply them!

I hear that.  But if you don’t, read the version of the Bible that inspires you to put those aspects of your faith into action in your life. Peterson’s only human and is doing his best to paraphrase God’s word to encourage those who need to see it from a different point of view.  We can forgive him because even though you may like or hate Peterson’s Message the Holy Spirit has used it to lead people to Christ and reinvigorate their walk or reveal truth they didn’t see. 

Peterson’s only human and just like my “Armor of God” coin’s engravers – their hearts were in the right place, and they did their best. And even if a close examination reveals that their engraving work was less than perfect (It looks like “Helmet of Silvation”?  “Breastp;ate of Righteousness”?  “Ephesians S:13-17?” to me) or Peterson’s paraphrase feels less than divinely inspired, we can appreciate that they were both pointing us to faithfully following the Lord.  And in the end, it is not up to someone else perfectly pointing us to God that will make the difference in our walk of faith.  After we know Jesus as Savior, We have to choose to make Him the Lord of our lives and take responsibility for how we follow Him and how we fight the spiritual forces of darkness that oppose us.   

Yesterday, Freedom in Christ Ministries sent out this short devotional by Dr. Neil Anderson, and I feel compelled to share it on the blog this morning because of its wisdom and truth and because I believe Anderson’s message may point some of us to take a more active role in fighting the enemy.  

“PERSONALLY RESISTING SATAN

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Romans 13:14)

Paul instructs us to make no provision for the flesh. What if we do? We are told to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. What if we don't? James 4:7 admonishes us to "resist the devil and he will flee from you." What if we don't resist him? Is he required to flee from us if we don't take our stand against him? No, if we don't resist him, he doesn't have to go. We have the assurance of God's protection, but we must assume our responsibility to personally resist Satan.

Ephesians 6:10-17 outlines the armour of God which believers are instructed to put on in order to "stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (verse 11). But if we go into battle without some of our armour, are we impervious to getting wounded? No, if we fail to cover ourselves with the armour God has provided, we are vulnerable. James 4:1 reveals that the source of our quarrels and conflicts is the pleasures that "wage war in your members." Paul instructed, "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts" (Romans 6:12). The world, the flesh and the devil are continually at war against the life of the spirit within us. But what if we don't fight back? Will we still be victorious over the pleasures and lusts that strive to reign over us? No, they will control us if we remain passive.

Choosing truth, living a righteous life, and donning the armour of God is each believer's individual responsibility. I cannot be responsible for you, and you cannot be responsible for me. I can pray for you, encourage you in the faith, and support you, but if you go into the battle without your armour on, you may get hurt. As much as that may be a matter of concern for me, I still cannot make those decisions of responsibility for you. Those choices are yours alone.

Loving Father, thank You for investing Yourself in me. Equip me to graciously invest myself today in ministry to others.”

Neil Anderson

 

So for the second time this week, the Armor of God has made an appearance on the blog and I get the impression that the Lord is encouraging all of us to “suit up” in our faith and enter into the new year by choosing to follow the Lord into battle and to take personal responsibility to do our part to seek out new challenges and to win new victories in the year ahead.  

2023 was a breakthrough year for me in terms of winning the fight against my food addiction but the battle goes on. I can’t get complacent now. Although I have made significant steps forward with my physical health the only victories that matter are the ones that last. I have a new measure of freedom and self-control over the flesh but that must be increased and maintained.  And just because I will continue to engage in that fight, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t seek to win in other areas of my life.  

At year's end the Lord has blessed me beyond belief with the sale of my former home, and I am literally going to Disney World! But if I want to avoid being overcome with the weight of financial burdens like I have in the past, I have to learn that my “consumption” problem wasn’t only in the areas of food in 2023, and I have to repent of my “retail therapy” ways.  So we will be taking on my tendency to overspend and buy things I don’t need for 2024.   

I was also humbled this year by failing to accomplish something I had thought was going to be my mission in life, being a certified Deeper Walk Prayer Minister and having the hope that I would come to be a part of that ministry as part of my purpose in the future.  But I was told I “overwhelm” people and I failed to be certified on time. Currently, it is unclear whether or not I will accomplish certification in the future, but either way the experience of failure and rejection that I went through this year made me realize that I shouldn’t make idols out of organizations or people in the body of Christ and that whatever my purpose is in God’s kingdom, it is doubtful that it will just be handed to me by someone else.  Whatever my purpose is God will direct me to it and quite frankly, THIS may be all there is. 

And if “This” (my ministry of “encouragement” through my blog, podcast, YouTube Channel, and serving FICM as a CFMA and Online Course Leader, and serving my local church in Recovery Ministry, and living a surrendered life a of disciple of Jesus Christ with my faithful and loving Christian wife, TammyLyn) is it.  I can live with that.

God has saved me and set me free. Whether I ever enter into full-time ministry or not,  will be up to Him to determine in the future. But in the meantime, my life is an unbelievable blessing of peace, love, and joy and even though I don’t always know where this path of Christian Discipleship will take me, I will just keep on walking and talking with God knowing that His plan for my life is better than anything I could have imagined. So I’ll just trust in Him and see where it goes.

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For those who want more evidence for Christianity than my simple encouragements provide, I offer apologist, Frank Turek’s website, https://crossexamined.org/ .

Today’s Bible verses come to us from “The Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling” By John G. Kruis.

( While Bible verses on various topics of Counseling can be found with a quick Google search, we encourage you to purchase this resource to support the late author’s work. (https://www.amazon.com/Quick-Scripture-Reference-Counseling-Kruis-ebook/dp/B00CIUJZT2?ref_=ast_author_dp )

This morning’s meditation verse comes from the section on Comfort.

Romans 8:18 (NASB)
18  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

 Today’s verses fall under the seventh point of our counseling reference guide resource’s section on Comfort.

7. The sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the coming glory.

Today’s verse is a wonderful reminder that earth is not our home, God’s kingdom is, and that the suffering we endure now is only temporary.  

This is a very appropriate piece of scripture to receive at year’s end as many of the sentiments I see shared on social media testify of hard times, difficulties, and losses experienced in 2023.  So Paul’s words can be taken as an encouragement for better days ahead in 2024, but in reality some of our problems can take longer that 365 days to walk out of, ask me how I know, and just because the date on the calendar changes doesn’t mean everything is going to be “just ducky” in the new year.  

However, if we are in Christ, we always have hope.  We have the hope of life everlasting in God’s kingdom and because God is for us, and He is moving all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, we can hope for freedom, rescue and deliverance!   While we should do our best to do what’s right and take personal responsibility to fix the mess we are in, we should do so with the Lord by our side because He will help us when we ask Him for help.  He can bless us in ways we could never imagine or He could just give us the strength to persevere but no matter what we are suffering we can rejoice that the sufferings we are experiencing are a light affliction compared to the glory that we will experience with God in His kingdom and hope for good things to come here on earth in the meantime.  

So let’s move forward into the new year, facing things realistically but praying unceasingly for the Lord to guide and bless our path.

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we are sharing from “God is in the Manger- Reflections on Advent and Christmas” – By Dietrich Bonhoeffer.   

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage you all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available online for less than $10 at many sites.

God is in the Manger – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND EPIPHANY

DECEMBER 30

Beside Your Cradle Here I Stand

A verse is going around repeatedly in my head: “Brother, come; from all that grieves you / you are freed; / all you need / I again will bring you.” What does this mean: “All you need I again will bring you”? Nothing is lost; in Christ everything is lifted up, preserved—to be sure, in a different form—transparent, clear, freed from the torment of self-seeking desire. Christ will bring all of this again, and as it was originally intended by God, without the distortion caused by our sin. The teaching of the gathering up of all things, found in Ephesians 1:10, is a wonderful and thoroughly comforting idea. “God seeks out what has gone by” (Eccl. 3:15) receives here its fulfillment. And no one has expressed that as simply and in such a childlike way as Paul Gerhardt in the words that he places in the mouth of the Christ child: “All you need I again will bring you.” Moreover, for the first time in these days I have discovered for myself the song, “Beside your cradle here I stand.” Until now I had not thought much about it. Apparently you have to be alone a long time and read it meditatively to be able to perceive it.… Beside the “we” there is also still an “I” and Christ, and what that means cannot be said better than in this song.

When God’s Son took on flesh, he truly and bodily took on, out of pure grace, our being, our nature, ourselves. This was the eternal counsel of the triune God. Now we are in him. Where he is, there we are too, in the incarnation, on the cross, and in his resurrection. We belong to him because we are in him. That is why the Scriptures call us the Body of Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:8b–12

DECEMBER 31

The Joyous Certainty of Faith

On the basis of God’s beginning with us, which has already happened, our life with God is a path that is traveled in the law of God. Is this human enslavement under the law? No, it is liberation from the murderous law of incessant beginnings. Waiting day after day for the new beginning, thinking countless times that we have found it, only in the evening to give up on it again as lost—that is the perfect destruction of faith in the God who set the beginning once and for all time.… God has set the beginning: this is the joyous certainty of faith. Therefore, beside the “one” beginning of God, I am not supposed to try to set countless other beginnings of my own. This is precisely what I am now liberated from. The beginning—God’s beginning—lies behind me, once and for all time.… Together we are on the path whose beginning consists in the fact that God has found his own people, a path whose end can consist only in the fact that God is seeking us again. The path between this beginning and this end is our walk in the law of God. It is life under the word of God in all its many facets. In truth there is only one danger on this path, namely, wanting to go behind the beginning. In that moment the path stops being a way of grace and faith. It stops being God’s own way.

I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. For that purpose he needs men who make the best use of everything. I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to help us to resist in all times of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on him alone. A faith such as this should allay all our fears for the future. I believe that even our mistakes and shortcomings are turned to good account, and that it is no harder for God to deal with them than with our supposedly good deeds. I believe that God is no timeless fate, but that he waits for and answers sincere prayers and responsible actions.

“After Ten Years: A Reckoning Made at New Year 1943”

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28–30[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Ask Seek Knock blog (https://tammylynask.blogspot.com/ ),  her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, ed. Jana Riess, trans. O. C. Dean Jr., First edition. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 76–79.


Friday, December 29, 2023

Truth Liberates – The Basis For Our Freedom – Wisdom From Dr. Neil Anderson - Purity 1234


Truth Liberates – The Basis For Our Freedom – Wisdom From Dr. Neil Anderson - Purity 1234

Purity 1234 12/29/2023 Purity 1234 Podcast

Purity 1234 on YouTube:



Good morning,

Today’s photo of a roadside view of a couple of bales of hay and farmlands shrouded in gray clouds of fog comes from Dave Baun Photography who shared this on FB yesterday commenting that it is the “third image in this Tasmanian ‘pull-over’ series” which “comes from the road to Cradle Mountain, near a little place called Sheffield. If you would like to see the first two photos in Dave’s “Tasmanian pullover series” and Dave’s other work go to the Dave Baun Photography page on FB (https://www.facebook.com/DaveBaunPhotography) .

Well, It’s Friday, and even though the weather in my neck of the wood has been rainy and as grey as Dave’s photo, and I was sidelined on the couch most of the day yesterday with the sniffles, I’m still going to Thank God – for it being Friday, for another day off on this Christmas staycation, for the fact that our recent rain wasn’t snow, for the health I do have, for the love of family and friends, and for who I am in Christ.  No matter what circumstances you face in life if you have made Jesus your Lord and Savior you always have at least one thing to be thankful for and if we remember how God saved us and if we focus on Him, we should be able to come up with a whole lot more to be thankful for.  

I am still not feeling a hundred percent health wise this morning and have already downed two mason jars of orange juice to infuse my body with vitamin C, but, I still wanted to encourage those of us on the path of Christian Discipleship to keep on walking and talking with God and to share this passage from Neil Anderson’s Discipleship Counseling that I read this morning that is positively infused with truth and the keys to freedom:

Anderson writes:

TRUTH LIBERATES

Our Lord had just partaken of His Last Supper with His disciples. He knew the path toward the Cross was set before Him, and He knew that He would soon be leaving Earth. Left behind would be 11 of the chosen 12 apostles, who would face the god of this world and continue the work that Christ had begun. Satan had already deceived one of the disciples into betraying Christ.

Jesus turned to the Father and prayed, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Then His prayer revealed how this can be accomplished. “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (v. 17).

Believing the truth about who Christ is, why He came and who we are in Him is the basis for our freedom. Knowing the truth set forth in God’s Word is the mark of a true disciple.

If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:31-32).

Girding our loins with truth is our first line of defense against the father of lies (see Eph. 6:14).

We acknowledge this truth in the inner self (see Ps. 51:6) because a genuine faith is more than just intellectual assent or the accumulation of knowledge. God’s truth must penetrate the heart, the very core of our being. Only then will His truth bring freedom and lasting change in the inner self.

(Anderson, Dr. Neil T.. Discipleship Counseling (p. 240). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

At the Celebrate Freedom (recovery/discipleship) Growth Group that I lead at Starpoint Church, I continually try to impress upon the participants the truth of who they are in Christ. Beyond the Celebrate Recovery Lessons that attempt to Christianize the Twelve Steps, I hand out The Who I Am in Christ and lead quieting and appreciation exercises reciting it to affirm that participant’s identity in Christ because, as Anderson states, I know that it is “the basis of our freedom” and if I can encourage someone to the point where this truth penetrates their hearts, I know that God’s truth can bring freedom and lasting change to their lives.  

And when you know who you are in Christ, know it in your heart, and experience your freedom in Christ, you can be thankful and have peace and joy, even on gray days when your health isn’t the best.  

So thank God it’s Friday, remember and focus on who you are in Christ and continue to let God’s truth set you free.   

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For those who want more evidence for Christianity than my simple encouragements provide, I offer apologist, Frank Turek’s website, https://crossexamined.org/ .

Today’s Bible verses come to us from “The Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling” By John G. Kruis.

( While Bible verses on various topics of Counseling can be found with a quick Google search, we encourage you to purchase this resource to support the late author’s work. (https://www.amazon.com/Quick-Scripture-Reference-Counseling-Kruis-ebook/dp/B00CIUJZT2?ref_=ast_author_dp )

This morning’s meditation verses come from the section on Comfort.

Psalm 73:1-28 (NIV2011)
1  Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2  But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
3  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4  They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
5  They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.
6  Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.
7  From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits.
8  They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9  Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10  Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.
11  They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?”
12  This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13  Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.
14  All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.
15  If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children.
16  When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply
17  till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
18  Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.
19  How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!
20  They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
21  When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
22  I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
23  Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
24  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

25  Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27  Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28  But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Today’s verses fall under the sixth point of our counseling reference guide resource’s section on Comfort.

6. The wicked appear to prosper for a time, while the righteous suffer; but actually God is always leading us in the best way; he comforts us with his presence.

 

Today’s verses remind us to not envy the godless who prosper but to rest in the assurance of our salvation and to be comforted by God’s presence and led by His guidance.   

This world has many fleshly and material pleasures and when we focus on the luxuries of this world it is easy to become bitter when we see people who have no regard for God or Jesus prosper and enjoy them.

But scripture tells us that material riches are not necessarily a blessing from God as money and success can easily become the idols we choose to worship rather than the One True God and even though someone without can be materially rich and thrive on earth, without Jesus they are spiritually bankrupt and will perish in eternity.  

So keep your eyes on the prize, the eternal life with God and the riches and wonders of His love and the safety we have in Jesus forever.

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we are sharing from “God is in the Manger- Reflections on Advent and Christmas” – By Dietrich Bonhoeffer.   

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage you all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available online for less than $10 at many sites.

God is in the Manger – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS AND EPIPHANY

DECEMBER 29

Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace

Everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6)—how can this be the name of the child? Only because in this child the everlasting fatherly love of God is revealed, and the child wants nothing other than to bring to earth the love of the Father. So the Son is one with the Father, and whoever sees the Son sees the Father. This child wants nothing for himself. He is no prodigy in the human sense, but an obedient child of his heavenly Father. Born in time, he brings eternity with him to earth; as Son of God he brings to us all the love of the Father in heaven. Go, seek, and find in the manger the heavenly Father who here has also become your dear Father.

“Prince of Peace”—where God comes in love to human beings and unites with them, there peace is made between God and humankind and among people. Are you afraid of God’s wrath? Then go to the child in the manger and receive there the peace of God. Have you fallen into strife and hatred with your sister or brother? Come and see how God, out of pure love, has become our brother and wants to reconcile us with each other. In the world, power reigns. This child is the Prince of Peace. Where he is, peace reigns.

In our lives we don’t speak readily of victory. It is too big a word for us. We have suffered too many defeats in our lives; victory has been thwarted again and again by too many weak hours, too many gross sins. But isn’t it true that the spirit within us yearns for this word, for the final victory over the sin and anxious fear of death in our lives? And now God’s word also says nothing to us about our victory; it doesn’t promise us that we will be victorious over sin and death from now own; rather, it says with all its might that someone has won this victory, and that this person, if we have him as Lord, will also win the victory over us. It is not we who are victorious, but Jesus.

“Christus Victor” address, November 26, 1939

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Mark 4:35–41[1]

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Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Ask Seek Knock blog (https://tammylynask.blogspot.com/ ),  her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, ed. Jana Riess, trans. O. C. Dean Jr., First edition. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 74–75.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course - Lesson 7 - Mission


 I am happy to announce that I have completed the editing and the video teaching of the last installment of the Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course and have decided to launch it now! 

As I stated previously:  "I developed the Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course in 2020 as part of my master’s thesis in Christian Counseling to “fill in the gaps” of the Christian Twelve Step/Celebrate Recovery – Teaching Curriculums by introducing concepts of Christian Discipleship that I found important in my walk of faith and in my recovery over alcohol, drugs, sex addiction, and food addiction."

We hope it encourages you to follow Jesus and to overcome any hurts, habits, and hang-ups that still persist in your lives. 

God Bless You All,

M.T. Clark

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Listen to the Podcast: Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course - Lesson 7 - Mission Podcast

Or Watch it on YouTube: 






Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course - Lesson 7: Mission

Discipleship Principle 7 – We are to seek out and continually walk in our personal kingdom mission, which will include fellowshipping and discipling with the body of Christ and impacting the world outside the church through service and evangelism.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

One of the biggest concerns regarding recovery, or the Christian life in general, is maintenance. Often when people have success in recovery or have given themselves to the Lord, they tire of the new life they have because it is unfamiliar and eventually they are disappointed in the body of Christ, or themselves, and either end up leaving the fellowship of the church and go back to their previous habits and attitudes of life or remain but have little or no growth and fail to pursue their kingdom purpose.

 In Matthew 13:20-22, Jesus taught:  The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.

Jesus warns that believers can stumble or be unfruitful when our spiritual foundation isn’t right.  When we go from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, or from addiction to recovery, we have to adapt to a whole new way of living. To do that successfully, we must fill in the gaps in our lives that our old attitudes and habits previously occupied.  

The way we maintain the freedom that we have so desperately fought for is to remember what we have learned while we seek the new purpose that God has for us. We need to find our kingdom's mission.

Managing Expectations for Our Walk

Philippians 3:12 says “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”

The idea of being a “super Christian” should be put aside as we are only trying to make steady progress according to our individual gifts and call from God. We are not pushing for perfection as much as remaining in peace and harmony with God as we follow where He leads us.  The levels of our surrender will vary depending on each of our individual gifts and call. So, we should not look to our neighbor’s walk and find fault or feel superior, as we realize we are all different and are following God the best we can.  We are to seek God and support one another with love and encouragement.

Romans 12:4-6 tells us “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: …”

Everyone is different with unique gifts and a call on their life. We are in a process of maturation. We have made progress but are still growing and will be until we see Jesus.  Remember our lives in Christ are about progress not perfection. We are His eternally so we can go at our own pace.

So, we must develop the fruit of gentleness with ourselves by being patient and forgiving when we “miss the mark” of our desired behavior and goals.  Remaining persistent, we must pick ourselves up when we fall, try to reduce the number of falls, increase the duration of time between falls, and try to eliminate the falls altogether.  We must keep our journey balanced with conviction, compassion, and commitment where we acknowledge when we go astray, thank God for His forgiveness, and endeavor to not make the same mistakes twice and learn from them.

Ephesians 1:17-18 tells us “that the God … may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling…

In our walk, we never lose hope, even when we are not progressing or have taken a step back. because we know our journey is not about performance.  Although we try to get better as part of our maturation process and try to discover our kingdom purpose, we should remember to be patient and forgiving towards ourselves as we go. We should also look for some company as we walk. 

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Discipleship

In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus tells us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…

The simple meaning of the word “disciple” is “learner.” People in recovery are becoming “disciples” in a sense because they are learning a new way to live.

In Matthew 10:24, Jesus taught that: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.

For Christian recovery, we want to be disciples of Jesu and our daily lives should be used to grow deeper in the knowledge of our Lord and more intimate in terms of our heart relationship with Him. Our devotional practices, bible study, and prayer prepare our hearts and minds for our kingdom mission.  As we come together to support one another in our recovery and our walk with God, our process could be identified as discipleship, or discipleship counseling, as we give each other advice.

Discipleship is an intentional relationship in which we walk with other believers to edify and encourage each other in our faith walk, growing closer to one another as we grow closer to the Lord. We can learn to live the Christian lifestyle through studying the Bible or taking a discipleship course. By doing this together, we can learn through one another’s advice as we can draw upon our collective knowledge and experience of applying the word’s wisdom to our lives to avoid mistakes and pitfalls that others have suffered. The accountability, clarification, and feedback that we receive in discipleship are elements that we cannot fully replicate through individual study. 

Discipleship also includes equipping one another to teach others as well. The value of talking about our faith with one another is realized as we learn to not only understand what we believe and how we are to live but also learn how to verbally express it effectively to others. Together we can learn to overcome objections, questions, and doubts through examining, rehearsing, and perfecting our testimonies and gospel messages through coaching and encouragement.

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Discipleship Triads

In Matthew 18:20 Jesus said “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

Triad discipleship groups are three or four individuals, who agree to meet periodically, to build supportive relationships to assist and to challenge one another to become more passionate, fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.  Greg Ogden’s Transforming Discipleship demonstrates that groups of three or four Christians discipling one another change the dynamics from a student-mentor discipleship model to a group process where the parties are energized and benefit from group wisdom and a team mentality.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Twelve-step programs stress the importance of sponsors and accountability partners for an individual’s successful recovery. Having the support and feedback of other people who are traveling on the road to recovery can be the difference between someone relapsing or continuing to stay clean and sober.   As Christians in recovery who are seeking to maintain our victory, we should seek to extend our relationships with sponsors and accountability partners into discipleship triads.

Celebrate Recovery small group discussions establish a vehicle to discuss material transparently and to grow closer as groups. They provide an opportunity to form accountability groups and a natural way to transition to small discipleship groups.  Discipleship triads would serve as a support to recovery, to the Christian lifestyle, and to apply biblical principles to life’s problems as they happen.

Transformation happens when we live in community with other Christians being encouraged and challenged to consider the wisdom of the Bible in the context of everyday life. Accountability brings the relationship to a deeper level allowing others to speak truth into our lives and hold us responsible to keep the promises we make. Disciple triads can become an effective defense for relapse or walking away from the church and even empower purpose as the team not only supports one another but can work together in joint service projects or to bring others into the kingdom through evangelistic outreach. Beyond these benefits, discipleship prepares us to grow into our individual kingdom mission as we learn where our strengths and the Lord guide us. 

Church Community – Service in the Body of Christ

The local church community is the place where we are intended to dwell and prosper. As disciples, we should seriously consider serving our local church. Several opportunities for service may be available such as:

·       A/V Ministry

·       Sunday school – Children’s ministry

·       Worship team – choir

·       Ushers – Greeters

·       Nursery

·       Cleaning, Maintenance, and Groundskeeping

·       Jail Ministry

·       Hospital-Nursing Home -Ministry

·       Bible Study

·       Discipleship

·       Small Groups

·       Youth ministry

·       Hospitality

·       Recovery Ministry

All churches are not created equal however and there is a wide spectrum of the varying levels of opportunity for service and fellowship depending on your local church.  Some churches have a plethora of programs, small groups, and social activities, while others have virtually none.   Serve your church where you can as you are led by the Spirit.

Outside the Four Walls - Go into all the world

Mark 16:15, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Matthew 22:39  And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

Although we can find the means to serve and grow within the church, scripture clearly shows we are to go out into the world to preach the gospel and to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

International – National  Missions

Opportunities exist to go on short or long-term international and national mission trips through local churches and national and international missionary organizations.  Short-term mission trips are a great way to serve the Lord and to mature in your faith. For those with a call on your heart for long- or short-term missions, make goals to position yourself to go.  

Local Missions - It has often been said that our local community is our mission field.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be a witness to our friends and neighbors in our local community.  As stated in the worship lesson, those at our places of work should be aware that we are Christian by our personal testimony and by our conduct.  While there may be restrictions on what we can say and do at work regarding our faith, there are virtually no limits to what we can do in our personal lives to represent the kingdom and encourage others to follow Jesus. 

Evangelism - Our best form of evangelism is our personal testimony and our Christian lifestyle.  Being an overcomer, we are supernaturally blessed with a testimony of a transformed life. As we walk and commit ourselves to good works for the glory of the Lord, our testimony becomes richer and richer as our impacted life touches those around us.   When our walk with the Lord is continuous, our testimony never ends.

We can add to our witness by doing organized evangelism by partnering with other Christians from our local church in doing street evangelism, putting on public outreach events, or distributing gospel tracts.   These means not only can be used by the Lord to bring new people into the kingdom of God but can also cause us to grow in our faith and to grow closer to those we partner with from the body of Christ. 

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Social Media - Social media is a great way to make friends and share the hope of the gospel with others both near and far.  We can monitor posts to see what is going on in people’s lives and to offer prayer or encouragement to our friends and acquaintances when we see a need. Connecting via social media can be used by the Lord for discipleship and evangelism. We should utilize all the tools at our disposal to further the cause of the kingdom of God and to help others and that includes social media and the latest technological forms of communication including email, texting, podcasts, and streaming or uploading video.

Volunteering  One of the best witnesses for the church, which is underutilized, is becoming involved in local community service and national charities that serve various causes for the community.   Be it walks, 5k’s, marathons, or other fundraising events, these charitable venues allow you to meet people outside of the church who have a heart for community service but need Jesus. Some examples of organizations that have volunteering opportunities include:

·                  American Red Cross.

·       United Way.

·       Volunteer Fire Departments

·       Salvation Army.

Our entrance into volunteer service is to serve the cause we have volunteered for but should always be undertaken with the understanding that we are participating to serve the kingdom of God on a larger scale than where we would have been able to in our normal circles.  Every new contact is a chance to share our testimony and the love of Jesus Christ.  With every volunteering opportunity, we should also be prepared to lead as the Lord often positions His people for a place of authority.  

Wrap Up

As followers of Jesus, our mission in life is to share the good news of the kingdom of God.  We are all different with various talents and gifts so what our personal kingdom mission is will be determined by where God has placed us and what He has placed in our hearts. 

As our ascension lesson taught, part of our mission is to overcome our sins and to resolve conflicts or character defects that prevent us from being what God wanted us to be: free! 

As our worship lesson taught, our lives are to be living expressions of our love for and gratitude to our Lord and Savior.  Our worship draws us closer to the Lord by renewing our minds and hearts to love and serve Him as a natural expression of our faith. 

This lesson told us to build one another up in our faith through discipleship and to equip one another to disciple others.   We recommended forming discipleship triads to empower and build the overall body of Christ and to increase its numbers.  

We spoke of the importance of finding and building into a home church with service.  

Then we encouraged you to go out and evangelize friends and neighbors both locally, nationally, and internationally both through your physical presence and via social media. 

These “steps” are progressive, and simultaneous, as they add up to a transformed life that is sustained by the love for the Father to seek our purpose: to give Him glory in the way that was meant specifically for us.    

When we seek out God’s mission for our lives, we replace our past darkness with a life of love, meaning, and purpose.  Living for God is every disciple’s kingdom mission.

 

Review and Examine.

1.    How does a personal kingdom mission affect one’s recovery or Christian walk? 

2.    How should we manage our expectations for our Christian walk?

3.    Where should every disciple consider serving? How?

4.    According to the lesson what is the best form of evangelism? What are the benefits of evangelism?

5.    What role could national or international missions play in our purpose?

6.    How can you serve your kingdom mission in your local community? What are the advantages to local service?