Are You a Disciple?

24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

In the late 1800’s Ernest Shackleton, the famous British explorer, when he was about to set out on an expedition to the South Pole, put an ad in the London Times, “Men wanted for hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” How many people do you think responded to the ad? (Scrolling further down to the end of the next paragraph will give you the answer).

Pastors of the Western church of Jesus Christ have a tendency to want to make it easier for people. We’re afraid that the message of Jesus Christ and His call to commitment will put some people off. We put coffee cup holders at the back of the seats, and only brew premium coffee. We make the room warm, but not too warm in case we put people to sleep. The music has to be just right, with perfect sound reproduction. The children’s classrooms have to have enough toys, with no hint of a stain or blemish on any of them. Our Western culture has permeated our church culture. As a result, we have a marketing mentality. People in the West are used to this. The churches in Asia are not bound by such marketing strategies; they have grown strong by deep commitment to the cause of Christ. When we think of Shackelton’s advertisement, why would this draw anyone? When calling for a commitment, Earnest Shackleton told them that this would not be easy, and only those who were ready to give up their lives for the cause should apply. He wrote, “Safe return doubtful.” This would be a trip of great hardship with a small wage, bitter cold, and long months of darkness. What would move anyone, we would think, to desire to go with Shackleton? In speaking of it afterward he said that so overwhelming was the response to his appeal that it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him. In fact, Shackleton had over 5000 replies to his ad.[1]

Why do you think 5000 men responded to such an advertisement?

I think many are looking for something to give themselves to that would live on after their deaths. Men need a challenge. Even though there was a possibility of death, the response was overwhelming and surprising. However, out of those 5000 people only 27 were chosen for the trip. Advertisements for young men to join the Marines play on this desire for challenge, commitment, hardship, honor and recognition. I would think that if we could have questioned the 5000 responders their main motive would have been the same as those that join the Marines, that of the challenge, glory, hardship, and the desire to be part of something that will make a difference. The most inspiring thing you can ever say to somebody is that they have made a difference through what they have done. Many are aware that the future does not look bright for anyone who has a mind to look at what is happening in the world. It will become increasingly dangerous to be a Christian as we approach the end times, yes, even here in America. There will be increasing pressure to compromise your faith and your values. What things do you see happening that is pressuring Christians to compromise their faith?

Without a deep commitment to the cause of Christ and an intimate love for the King of Love we will be swept away from the centrality of Christ and obedience to His Word. We are called to not only believe but to be a disciple, a disciplined one. Let me ask you this question, if it were illegal to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Your answer to that question may shed light on whether you are a nominal believer, or a disciple. I pray today that these words today may find an opening in your heart to desire to be a disciple rather than just a believer.

Read more on this study by scrolling down to the Becoming a Disciple Series and click on the second study, “A Revolution of the Committed.”

Keith Thomas

[1] Carl Hopkins Elmore, Quit You like Men, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944).

What Limits Has Man Put On You?

2The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They asked, “Where did he get all his wisdom and the power to perform such miracles? 3He’s just the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him (Mark 6:2-3 NLT).

Have you ever felt that someone has put a limit on you as to what they think you can do? You, as well as I, have heard things like “he’ll never amount to much” or words such as “she has always been like that and always will be.”

We must be careful with our words. Words have great power to create and build up, but also have power to destroy. I always remember how hurt I was at the tender age of 11 to be referred to as the ugliest kid in a school of over a thousand kids. It took me a long time to break out of that self-image of being ugly. What words have you had spoken over you that still limit you today? The people in the Jewish house of worship were offended at Jesus because he was just a carpenter.  He hasn’t got the right stock, he’s never been to Bible school or seminary, he’s just a carpenter, he’s only good for woodwork, and he has no place in ministry! People can place limits on us with their words. We should no longer look at those that have given their lives to Christ in the same way as we once did. If you are in Christ, there is awesome potential that has been given to you by the Spirit of God.  Let the lid that has held you down be taken off! Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthian Church, told them toregard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). What did he mean? I believe he is talking about taking off the limits that we place on one another. Trust that God is well able to make you into the person He has called you to be and trust God that He is able to do that for others too!

Prayer: Lord, I may not be everything you want me to be yet, but please help me to break free from every box that has limited me in my growth to be like Christ.  Let the lid be taken off.

Keith Thomas

The Man Justified Before God

9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10″Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’13″But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14″I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14)

This parable is on the subject of prayer and concerns itself more with the inner attitude or heart of prayer. In this parable, the contrast is between a self-righteous Pharisee and a penitent tax collector; no two people could be further apart than these two. Jesus shocks his audience by saying that the penitent tax collector went away justified rather than the Pharisee.

Both men were praying in the temple precincts. From the way the passage reads, I can picture the Pharisee standing up close to the front of the Temple Courts. His posture was that of standing up straight and looking up to heaven, congratulating himself out loud. I’m sure that others nearby could hear how he so righteously lived his life. It is mentioned that the penitent tax-collector stood at a distance, perhaps at the back of the Temple courts near the entrance, because he felt so unworthy. He could not even look up to heaven, which was the normal posture of prayer. (Our tradition today when called to prayer is to look downward, mainly due to the words of this parable.) It is interesting to note that often when Jesus is mentioned praying, it records that He “looked up to heaven.” In the Pharisee’s case, his posture of looking up to heaven is seen as his own self-righteousness and self-importance, which the parable later points out.  In the Pharisee’s prayer, the Greek words record him saying 5 times “I—I—I—I—I.” We find him praying “about himself” (verse 11), the literal rendering of the Greek is that he’s praying to himself. This man certainly was not maximizing his time of prayer, his prayer never got off the ground! His self-righteous attitude never brought him into a true relationship with God, he has no appreciation for grace, and in fact he disdains it. He’s far too righteous to need the grace of God! His life is all about keeping various laws to earn his right standing before God. He fully expects that his eternity is secured with a great mansion, but fails to look deep within himself to see his own character flaws. His boast was that he fasted twice a week. William Barclay tells us:

“The Jewish law prescribed only one absolutely obligatory fast- that on the day of Atonement. But those who wished to gain special merit fasted also on Mondays and Thursdays. It is noteworthy that these were the market days when Jerusalem was full of country people. Those who fasted whitened their faces and appeared in disheveled clothes, and those days gave their piety the biggest possible audience.”[1]

Like a good Pharisee, he tithed even on his spices, the mint, dill and cumin (Matthew 23:23), but yet he had no regard for the tax collector, in fact he despised him as he looked back at the man who could not even hold up his head. The man who has standing before God is one who has genuine humility and sees his need for mercy and grace from God:

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).

Keith Thomas

[1] The Daily Study Bible, Gospel of Luke, William Barclay, Page 223.

The War Between Brothers: Jews and Arabs

There is a recent study that proves genetically that Jews and Arabs are brothers one of another, and descendants of Abraham. Esau and Ishmael intermarried (Genesis 28:8-9) and became the Arabic people. Esau was Jacob’s brother–the one whose name was changed to Israel. God said that the Arabic people would be a great nation of countries (Genesis 17:20-21). There is a great love by the Most High Creator God for the Jewish and Arabic peoples. God tells of a time that is still future when there will be a highway all the way from Syria across Israel to Egypt. It will be a time when Arabs and Jews will worship the Lord together. Even though we cannot see it right now, the Most High God will bring it about. Egyptians, Syrians and Israeli’s will have a true peace and experience the blessing of the Messiah. This is what the Lord says:

23In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 24In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. 25The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance” (Isaiah 19:23-25).

 We cannot see it now because of a great war that is going on over the Middle East. This war is being fought on a spiritual plane, but has consequences on Earth. Paul the Apostle wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). What was Paul saying? He was saying that behind the things that are going on in the political world are invisible spiritual forces of evil that are competing for control over people’s minds and hearts. These invisible spiritual forces of evil plant thoughts and influence the minds of political leaders for a worldwide agenda to be brought about—a One World Government under a dictator the Bible calls the Antichrist. The hatred that has been pushed by the media between Jews and Arabs is of unseen demonic origin. It is just being used as a ploy for gaining control of Jerusalem, and at a time in the future, a world leader, the Antichrist, will sit in a newly rebuilt temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and proclaim himself as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4), seeking for all the world to worship him. The prophet Zechariah spoke 2500 years ago of the time that we are in right now:

2I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. 3On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves (Zechariah 12:2-3).

 It is important to understand that the name “Jerusalem” never appears in the Koran. The claim to Jerusalem came years after Mohammad’s death. Writer Hal Lindsey, in his book The Everlasting Hatred, The Roots of Jihad, says, “The justification for this comes from a verse which says Mohammad travelled to the “uttermost mosque,” (which is the meaning of Al Quds in Arabic) shortly before his death.” There is no evidence that this was Jerusalem—the legend of a visit to Jerusalem first appeared in the days of Khaliph Omar, the Muslim who originally conquered Jerusalem in April of AD 637, more than 560 years after the Jews were banished from Jerusalem by the Romans. There will come a time when the Arabic people will see that they have been manipulated by dark invisible forces and turn to the Lord for the free gift of His salvation that Christ won on the cross for all those that will come to Him. They will see that He has a great love for them just as He has for the Jewish people. He will have mercy on all who call on Him—for He will forgive them of their sins when they cry out to Him. What a difference on Earth that will make! Oh God, bring it about soon!

Keith Thomas

Where Have You Left Him?

3If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! (Job 23:3).

I had the great privilege of leading a tour of 26 people to Israel for 10 days and taking my son, Simeon, then aged 21 with me. While in Jerusalem we were just preparing to go along the tunnels all along the western side of the Temple Mount itself. While we were getting the tickets for the 26 of us, without my knowledge, my son had quickly departed to put a written prayer into the cracks of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, a place sacred to Jewish people for they believe that the divine presence of God resides at the Wall. He forgot to tell people that he was just dashing down to the Wall. Consequently, only 25 of us went into the tunnels to explore the buildings that go back to the time of King Herod and Jesus. It was single file all the way as we walked the narrow tunnel along the wall. When we got to the North West corner of the Temple Mount, the wall opens up into a bigger area where we looked at an ancient cistern. It was then that the person at the end of the line came in and I discovered that my son was missing. Is there anything more terrifying for a father? To lose my son in a foreign city with a different language and culture made my heart fearful. I dashed back through the network of tunnels in search of him. Ten minutes later I found him waiting at the entrance to the tunnel network—he was really upset at his foolish choice to wander away from his father. It was a precious time as we hugged and thanked God that we had found one another.

Many of you that find your way to this website are looking for your Father. Somehow you know in your heart that you were created for more than what you are currently experiencing. There is a God shaped piece in the core of your being that you have tried to fill with religion, sex, food, cars, electronic gadgets—you name it! Satan, your unseen enemy has many toys that he will tempt you with, like a lure designed to attract a fish. God allows trials in our lives because He knows that only through the emptiness, difficulties and trials will you begin to seek after Him with all your soul and leave the toys behind. What do you really want at the end of your life? Will lots of toys satisfy you? I was blessed to have much of this world’s goods by the time I was twenty-one, but it just gave me an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. What I really wanted was to search for my Father. And guess what? He was searching for me! He was never far away; He was waiting for me to find the bottom so that I could finally look up to Him. I searched five continents of planet Earth and 30 different countries searching for the truth. When I was ready and open to receive the truth—there was the Lord Jesus filling me with joy, life and peace. When I gave my life wholeheartedly to Christ, it was the greatest, most peaceful experience I have ever had. What joy floods the soul when a man gives up his life to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and find His forgiveness for sin.

Isn’t it time for you to find your Father? Maybe today is your day to call upon Him. Keith Thomas