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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Unanswered Prayer – Part IV

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Two Essentials for Effective Prayer

1. Prayer must be addressed to the Right Person.

There was a missionary’s son that played foot ball on a high school team in Utah. The coach was very down hearted that their team hadn’t won any games. The boy suggested prayer, but they still lost. As the coach lamented, the boy asked: “Maybe you prayed to the wrong god?” The coach with a bit of sarcasm, said: “Well, then you pray to your God!” The next game they won! The Prophet Elijah had a similar experience when he tried to turn Israel back to the Lord from Baal worship. The test on Mount Carmel was to prove which god was the true one---the true God or Baal. Whichever god accepted the sacrifice of worship by sending fire from heaven to consume it would be considered the true one. While the prophets of Baal prayed for a long time and did all sorts of things to get Baal to send the fire, nothing happened, except Elijah’s mocking. Then, it was Elijah’s turn. He simply prayed: “…let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel…” (1 Kings 18:36). The fire fell!

Prayer is totally ineffective when people pray to an “unknown god,” when they that no personal relationship of knowing and trust the Almighty, Ever Present, All Knowing, Eternal God of love and justice who created the universe and then as unique individuals. Their concept of divinity is based on what they have heard from others, or have perceived as god, one of their own making based on what they think a god should be and should do for them.

2. The person praying needs have addressed his/her own personal spiritual condition.

Someone who has not trusted in Christ as their Savior has no privileged basis for prayer. Only the Father’s own children have the right to expect answers, and only those who are exercising the “power” to become the children of God through faith and obedience (John 1:9). Even the prayers of believers who knowingly continue sinful behavior will also be ineffective. “…your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”(Isaiah 59:2)

From the very beginning, sin is the rejection of a relationship with God through distrust in God’s Word, character, and provision. This is what led Adam to embrace Satan’s lie for suggesting that Eve could become like a god by becoming wise and deciding what is good and evil (Genesis 3:5, 6). Along with her husband, they became like Satan who wanted to be god either in place of, or equal with God (Ezekiel 28:13, 14). This was and still is true rebellion against God. Satan and sinners in his control try to compete with God seeking other intelligent beings to be his subjects, not God’s children (Eph. 2:2, 3; Rev. 12:4). The earth became a battle field influenced from the heavenly sphere (Eph. 6:12).

The war on earth focuses on the human mind and heart becoming one of obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:25, 26) or rebellion of unbelief. (Gen. 3; Heb. 3:12, 19). The precepts of Scripture are the weapons God provides to control the mind (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). Satan’s chief weapons are suggestion and assertion of denial (Gen. 3:4, 5) leading to self reliance and assertion, i.e., as a little god. Since this sin is “…rebellion…as the sin of witchcraft,” it creates “…stubbornness…as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam. 15:23). Until this spiritual condition is addressed through faith in a Holy God and repentance from sins that “miss the mark” of his commands to love Him with all one’s heart, mind, body, and spirit and to love other’s as one’s self, there is no basis for God answering prayer.  Prayers that either establish or restore a relationship with God must be offered first. For the person who maintains an independent, worldly or self-centered attitude stands in opposition to God. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5 NKJV).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Unanswered Prayer – Part III

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

The Sinner’s Prayer

Prayer is one of God’s sanctifying instruments. The Lord Jesus defined eternal life in this way, “…this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). This “knowing” has the emphasis upon knowledge from personal experience. This fits into one of the main verses about how “knowing” comes about. “But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).

Knowing comes about by taking Jesus into one’s experience e.g. “receiving Him.” Jesus described it as an ongoing relational interaction in John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.”

Prayer is an audience with God through asking, praising, worshiping, and yielding. However, the practice of prayer takes many forms of expression.

One is to seek His presence, ask to be with Him and come to know Him through personal experience (John 1:37-39). The knowing appears when the assurance of eternal life grows within the heart. It is this foundation of knowing Christ by personal experience that births an individual into the family of God (John 1:9). God manifests His reality and basic moral principles within the human heart (Rom. 1:19, 20) as the nutriment in its soil that allows response to the gospel message. This is the work of God’s Holy Spirit.

When the reception of the gospel is not met by sin and/or rebellion, the message about Christ will be welcomed and embraced. People can then experience knowing Christ as they meditate on His life recorded in the New Testament. People often project themselves into a story they are either reading or seeing in a TV drama. When they do this in hearing the story of Jesus life recorded in the Gospels, they become like those who eye witnesses and heard Him. The Lord Jesus not only prayed for those who had walked with Him but for those who would believe in the future: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in me through their word;” i.e., the New Testament (John 17:20 NASU; Rom. 10:9-17; 1 John 1:1-3).

The context of the salvation prayer (Rom 10:13) is woefully neglected. Many who pray the “sinner’s prayer,” show no repentance of a lifestyle of self centered sin. Others whocalling upon Him by naming Him the “Lord” of their lives demonstrate the reality of conversion by a changed life. Jesus said: “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21). When the context of Romans 10:13 becomes a part of the “sinner’s prayer,” it is manifested by a life of prayer reflecting: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. . . . For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” (Rom 10:10-12). The “calling” speaks of a continual practice, not simply a single act that does not establish a life practice, i.e., a “believeth unto righteousness.” The whole experience must be a “…to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; ” (Rom. 6:16). As Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life;” (John 10:27).

Prayer that experiences a saving relationship with the Lord has this assurance:

“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:10-13).

Related reading: Unanswered Prayer - Part II Prayers Not Answered? Why?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Praying Psalm 7

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Psalm 7
God's Righteousness, the Basis of Boldness

Theme Verse: “Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.” (Verse 6)

Father, I thank and praise you for David's example of the boldness of a godly man whose conscience was clear. How else could he have petitioned you for judgment upon his wicked enemies? Indeed you judge all men's hearts and minds. What a purifying frame of reference! Help me, Lord, to make this a constant motive to purify my heart and mind humbly before you, that I may boldly bring my petitions before you.

Father, even the life of David witnesses to the fact that the godly in heart are sinners before your holiness. Therefore, Lord, I am able come before you through the cleansing of Jesus' blood only and through the righteousness standing you grant to me through Him. With this a my foundation, I will exercise my heart and mind to walk before you even as I stand before you, so that my heart and mind will be continually refined by gazing upon the crucified and resurrected One. Because of this, I will be slow to pray for my enemies' judgment, but rather for their repentance.

I am not nor would I try to be more righteous than David, the man after your own heart. He prayed these prayers only when his enemies had backed him into a corner and were about to destroy him. Yet, even as he, I must look beyond myself and my personal safety, to the cause that would fall with me, even the mission to others you call me to serve. Then, I must pray this prayer of David's for your sake and those principles and people which you desire to call your own.

Righteous are you in all your judgments, and glorious is your salvation for all those who will repent and believe! Oh, that the wicked would turn to you!

Related reading:   Introduction to Praying the Psalms; Praying Psalm 1; Praying Psalm 2; Praying Psalm 3; Praying Psalm 4; Praying Psalm 5; Praying Psalm 6

Thursday, October 24, 2013

On Mercy and the Number 13

What follows is a small excerpt from Edward F. Lundwall's forthcoming book on his experiences as a combat Chaplain in Vietnam.

Chaplain (Ret) Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Chapel #13

Although I don’t believe that numbers in life have much more than curious significance, they do have that. While in the United States Army as a Chaplain, I was assigned to Chapel #13. As a humorous observation of popular cultural anecdotal thinking, the number 13 is usually considered the number of bad luck. Some buildings don't even have a floor numbered thirteen. When strangers and compatriots frequently mentioned this, I would quip, “Well, in a chapel with a number like that we will just have to rely on the grace of God!”

However, the general belief prevailed that there was a definite reason for numbering that chapel thirteen. It was located in that part of the Personnel Center where draftees got off public transportation to be inducted into the Army. Furthermore, it was war time…Vietnam… and coming into the United States Army could mean a death sentence in jungle combat.

Praise the Lord! General belief does not hold, but the grace of God is undeniable and always reliable. My ministry there was blessed with 313 professions of faith and commitments to Christ as Savior! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Praying Psalm 6

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Psalm 6

When Weeping Leads to Victory 

Theme Verses: Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping. The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer (8-9).

O Father, how difficult it is to give praises to you in the times where circumstances bring weeping, when our enemies are at the doors, and we feel their presence even as swords at our throats. Such was David's experience in this Psalm. You seem to have deserted us to our enemies. For in these times, we fear we have somehow sinned and so caused your protecting shield to pass from us, exposing us to the onslaught of our enemies. These times haunts us. Even their memory can bring forth tears. However, under the direction of your Holy Spirit, these are but the refining fires that purify our hearts.

In the face of this, what boldness we can have when we claim your promises! However, we must search our consciences in your presence to claim your deliverance in faith. This confidence begins when one has, either found nothing, or has confessed it and had it cleansed away in the precious blood of Christ. Then, we can command the fear of my enemies to depart for the Son of God has girded Himself with His sword for our defense!

What joy we experience, first when we witness in our spirits you have heard us and have assured us you have granted our request for deliverance. Then joyous shouts rise in our throats when we see the greatness and completeness of deliverance: what a foretaste of what we will experience in your dear presence, when you have won the last battle, and we are eternally delivered from our enemies. What shouts of victory will rise when we gather before your throne in the New Jerusalem of the New Heavens and Earth! Oh, the glorious freedom when the assembly of redeemed cry out for the first time in one great chorus:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

And all that is within me,

Bless His Holy Name!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Letter to Christian Service Person in Desert Storm

A Letter written on December 19, 1990

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr., Retired Chaplain

Dear Brother in Christ,

Greetings in our blessed Savior’s Name!

I have felt impressed to write to you as you face possible combat in Saudi Arabia, because I want to share some things that I learned while ministering as a Chaplain in Viet Nam, with the 1/27th Infantry Battalion, 25tn Division.

The words of Mordecai to Esther come to my mind that could be applied to your mission: “…who knows whether you have come to the kingdom (opportunity) for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:15). You will have opportunity to witness and perhaps lead many to Christ. When I was at Ft. Dix as Chaplain at the Reception Station where the draftees got off the bus, I had the greatest evangelistic experience of my life. The men were more fearful then than at any other time; they didn’t know what to expect. They only knew that many had been killed or wounded.

I volunteered during the Viet Nam war, because I felt compassion on those who might seek the Lord in the hour of their distress. I would encourage you to feel God’s call also. I knew that it might be God’s will that I not return, but I committed that into God’s hands. Of the messages that I preached, the one that the men most responded to was that Christ would stick closer than a brother. To those who would trust Him, He would save and care for them forever, even beyond this life.

The most important thing is to trust Him in general and during the times of fear. Job said: “For the thing I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me” (Job 3:25). This verse was meaningful to me the first time I was in the field with Charlie Company. I had heard about all the bugs and creepy insects that could bit me in the rice patties. I was told to button up at and night and to put insect repellant around the openings of my uniform. I did. However, before I could get to sleep, a centipede 4-5 inches long crawled into my shirt and stung me. After that I remembered this verse and just trusted the Lord about it. Even though I heard mice playing around me as I went to sleep, I never had any more problems with insects or snakes or anything else.

While no one knows the time of our home going to Heaven, yet we know that our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15). As with the Psalmist, this promise gives us reason to pray for deliverance from our enemies; and He had war specifically in mind Having fear in the face of danger does not mean that a person is unspiritual for I comforted myself often with the verse: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee” (Psalm 65:3). I used it often when the enemy was especially aggressive. The point is that when in danger we all face fear, but the godly overcome fear by faith and prayers of faith. When we do this often enough, danger no longer terrifies us.

But neither fear nor past faith should keep us from praying through at specific times of danger. I remember a Christian soldier that had been delivered three times from circumstances of certain death in assaults upon Fire Support Base Mahone II. A 57mm recoilless rifle round went over the base into the back of his bunker. Three others with him were not killed. This was especially distressing to me because I had just preached Psalm 91 to him the day before.

But as I investigated the circumstances, there was indication that he had been trusting in being near me instead of claiming the promise: “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him. I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation (deliverance)” in Psalm 91:15 and 16. “…Ye have not, because ye have not” (James 4:3).

Yet, you need to tell your friends, that prayer without salvation and a conscience free from unrepentant sin will not bring God’s deliverance: “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1, 2). Effectual prayer brings results when a person reasons with God (Isaiah 1:8, I.e. where we let God speak to us while we plead our cause.

I recall one time following Tet 1969 in Viet Nam when intelligence indicated that we were the target of 2 North Vietnamese Regiments. We kept only one company for perimeter defense. So I prayed, reasoning with God for my life. I prayed for Him to save my life, first because I was a Christian, and then because of my wife and children, but received no peace, because others died while being married Christians. However when I sought the Lord that I might glorify Him more by living than dying, I got peace.

Two weeks later, the enemy bombarded our base, but were turned back, not because of our fire, but because their own mortars hit the assault troops. They left nearly thirty dead and many blood trails. In their retreat, they abandoned several of two kinds of rocket propelled grenade launchers with many rounds, 57 mm recoilless rounds and a Russian flame thrower. I believe that this was an answer to prayer for my deliverance. It corresponds to God’s ways as revealed in the Old Testament in which He would deliver His own by causing His people’s enemies to destroy themselves (2 Chronicles 20:1-26).

So be on the spiritual offensive, both in prayer and witness; if you do, I know that He will be gracious to you. Thereby, you can be sure you will live until your calling is fulfilled. You must trust the Lord actively and rest in His love and provisions along with prayer: “Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established;” (2 Chronicles 20:29). “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” (Isaiah 7:9).

Our prayers will be with you and your families.

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
Chaplain CPT, Reserved Retired

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Who Am I in Christ?

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Who Am I in Christ?
The Beginning of Discipleship - Part I

Foundational Verse: "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, 
he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NASB).

Let us first examine and analyze this verse from the Greek so that we can clearly see what it says.
1. The “all” in inclusive of all humanity regardless of race, gender, age, or culture.

2. The “received" indicates a self prompted action; it is a willful decision to accept. It is not inherited, nor can it be forced upon someone, or declared on behalf of someone. It is a personal choice.

3. The word “right” which is sometimes translated as “power” comes from the original Greek meaning “authority.” Authority is given for a purpose, but must be utilized.

4. "To become" is an infinitive defining the purpose of the authority to be used. In middle voice in the original Greek, it requires personal participation.

5. "Who believe on his name" is better translated as "those who are presently believing” in His name." It is a participle that describes a state of being.

Now let us examine some examples of how the content of the verse is shown in the lives of those who applied it.

1. In John 1: 29-34, John the Baptist clearly identifies Jesus as the Son of God.

2. The next day, John the Baptist, identifies him again in the presence of John and Andrew who immediately leave John the Baptist to follow Jesus (John 1: 35-42).

3. In John 10:24-30, Jesus affirms that he is the Son of God, and states that those who do believe are his sheep and “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (27-28).

These examples clearly illustrate “receiving” as an active willful following after Jesus.

The rest of the Gospel of John relates story after story of people who change as they are in the state or process of believing.

How does this process of believing work? In 1 Corinthians 3:16, “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” The phrase “turns to the Lord” means the same as “receiving” and therefore, presently believing and following. Verse 17 of the same chapter says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” indicating freedom to see, unhindered by a veil. Verse 18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The right or power given us when we receive/follow after Christ as our personal Savior allows us to behold or comprehend the presence of the Lord and as we focus and walk in that presence we are changed by increments (degrees) to look more like Him.

Hebrews 4: 1-2 indicates that regardless of who hears the Gospel of Christ, it is only those to “united by faith” to that message that benefit from it. A person must “receive”…willfully decide…to “believe”…follow Jesus…in order to enter into the promises of salvation. Verbal and/or intellectual assent is not enough; willful receiving and active believing (following) make a disciple of Christ, one of the “children of God.”

"And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath (received) the Son hath(receives) life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe (follow after) on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have(received) eternal life, and that ye may believe (follow after) on the name of the Son of God" (1 John 5:11– 13).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Unanswered Prayer - Part II

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Increasingly today’s culture is under the political correct prescription and function that proclaims and practices what the Apostle Paul called prayer is to “. . . 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' . . .” (Acts 17:23c NASU). The recent movement to squelch biblically based faith practices of military chaplains is a vivid example. The empty secularist multicultural view spelled out in all levels of the United States government are the results of a leadership educated in secular university where “diversity” training is merely a cover for relativism, the belief that no absolute truth exists and believing that it does (especially in the Holy Bible), places you in the category of either being ignorant, bias, fanatically conservative, and/or possibly dangerously bigot. All this in spite of the Declaration of Independence, which justified separation from England on the authority of the Creator universally recognized as the Judeo-Christian God of Scripture. In the late 1800’s, the US Supreme Court confirmed a conviction of a man of treason because the United States was a Christian nation. They justified this because they declared the United States government and its laws were derived from the God of the Bible. Indeed, even today the United States Supreme Court has four reminders in stone and metal which testify to the biblical based absolutes of American law. They have a statue of Moses with the Ten Commandments in his hands next to the steps, on the main metal doors, and over the head of the Chief Justice’s bench.

True prayers are offered before “the principalities and powers in heavenly places” and “should make … known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,” (Eph 3:10 KJV). When offered up to an unknown deity, they become merely empty words. We can expect them to be answered according to the character, will, and instructions revealed to us by the Almighty God who can be known. Having said all this, why then do prayers remained unanswered?

To find the answer to this question, we must: “…grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 KJV). Can anything run right, if the person trying to do something doesn’t know how the thing works? In prayer, some answers come simply just because God is gracious who gives abundantly and unconditionally (James 1:17 NASB). This is especially true in many prayers prayed in desperation when an individual recognizes only God can help. The operative phrase is “when an individual recognizes only God can help.”

When the individual does not grow in knowing God, often his/her prayers are heard but seldom answered. God does not grant what people ask because He is a God of relationship. He allows the lack of an answer to drive that person to seek to know Him more intimately, and to grow through faith into a desire to have prayer life, a regular conversation with Him.

At one time when Jesus disciples observed Him pray, they were stimulated to ask Him to teach them to pray. He gave them what we call the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13). This was not what He prayed, but was a general teaching outline for day to day living. In the context of this pattern for prayer, He showed what barriers needed to be removed in order for God to answer prayer.

The first hindrance Jesus indicated was the lack of forgiveness. “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:15 KJV). The praying person must realize that one of the purposes of prayer is to bring us into harmony with God. God forgives, so we must forgive in order to commune with God, the Great Forgiver.

Consider this. Who has the right and function to judge sins? Are we gods? To feel our offenders must answer to us is to act as a god. This attitude is exactly what Satan talked Eve into trying to do. “And the serpent (Satan) said unto the woman…and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:4, 5). As individuals, we do not have the right to judge and punish; in fact, we do not know enough to judge.

In fulfilling the need to restrain evil, God has given judicial systems to punish and remove evil (Rom 13:1-5). To know and weigh the truth is the purpose of court deliberations. As ministers of God, truth must be known before a person should be punished or disagreements settled. In a very real way, the emotional turmoil surrounding the desire to judge, punish, and/or take revenge is solved by committing the matter to God and His means. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom 12:19). To harbor this daily is to harm one’s relationship with the Lord. Jesus instructed us to daily place the matter in the proper hands - God’s. When a person will not repent and seek forgiveness, either from God and the one they injured, it is definitely the All-Knowing God and Holy who will and can administers justice best.

Related reading:  Prayers Not Answered? Why?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Psalm 5: Renew a Right Spirit Within Me

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Psalm 5

"My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up (verse 3).

O Father, in the beginning of my day, I come to you to renew my faith and to rest in your loving everlasting arms. For even though I do not see my enemies, as David so often did as fierce warriors seeking his death, they are real never the less. For your Word reveals my enemies are spiritual beings, and the battlefields are thoughts and false reasoning (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). This conflict attacks not only my mind and spiritual life, but also those under my influence.

Strengthen me by your Spirit in the inner man, especially in regard for those whom I am responsible. My own battles can be won by the conquering of my own will, intellect, and emotions, over which I am responsible, but to win spiritual battles in the lives of those I serve is a far more difficult matte because you have chosen to make man in your image with sovereignty of choice. Therefore, there is an area in each man where no one else has, but influence.

Help me to renew my heart like David did in this Psalm. Help me to see You as King over all, even when evil assaults us. Struggling with evil becomes a refining fire. Help me to emotionally feel the heat, but to embrace by faith the fact your control will accomplish your purposes. As I renew my personal rejection of evil and self dependence, help me to feel the nearness of your enabling mercies.

As I enter the spiritual conflicts of this day, Father, make your way for me straight and clear before my spiritual eyes, even though I now see as in a fog. Help me to grasp your hand by faith and joyfully fellowship with you through the power of your Holy Spirit. You, who cannot lie, have promised never to leave me, nor forsake me. Therefore, direct my foot steps as I lean not upon my own understanding, but only trust and acknowledge you. I shelter in your favor as a shield, believing you reward and protect those who seek your face in the midst of spiritual battles.

Bless the Lord, O my soul! He daily gives life, hope and abundant benefits!

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Eighth Triumph of Christ's Resurrection

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

God can give rewards of eternal value!

Without life from Christ’s resurrection, religious works are usually self seeking and only achieve earthly rewards. Alexander the Great who cried when he realized that there were “no more worlds to conquer,” requested that upon his death his hands be left hanging and flopping outside his coffin, his riches be strewn along the road of his funeral possession, and that his doctors be his pall bearers. He wanted to point out that all men are born empty handed, will leave all their riches behind, and even the best educated cannot prevent inevitable death, that nothing done by human effort is eternal. Pointing to the Pharisees' outward religious practices, Jesus taught that all the great achievements or good things done by human effort do not bring eternal reward when He states, “…that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward” (Matt. 6:2).

With the triumphant resurrection of Christ, however, by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, “Christ in us the hope of glory” (Col. 1:26-27) believers can through trust and obedience make an eternal impact when they influence others to consider the claims of Christ through their testimony, role model, proclamation of the truth of scripture. Why? For those who build their lives on the fundamental foundation of faith in Christ as the Savior with the desire to please and bring glory to Him, are storing up “treasures in heaven” that their heavenly Father “who sees in secret” will reward in them secret (Matt. 6:1821). It was in Jesus’ prayers that we would be with Him in heaven and bask in his glory and love in the presence of God the Father (John 17:20-26). At the Final Judgment of believers, “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.” “If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:13, 15). What is the work? In John 6:29, Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” and in verse 40, “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on that day….I will raise him up on the last day” and again in verse 44 “I will raise him up on the last day.” Ah, what a wondrous glory that will be when we and others experience resurrection into God’s Presence…all because of the Triumphs Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Building a Disciple-Making Church

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Developing the Method – Part II

For those who accept the four visions of getting started in discipling, it will only be logical to meet as a group at the direction of the discipling teacher. The use of the Disciple’s Sermon Worksheet, the Disciple’s Learning Application Exercise and the Disciple’s Reproductive Training Exercises uses the scriptural spiritual growth principle of meditation as found in Psalm 1:1–3. For the details in the use of these sermon enhancing exercises, see Chapter 5 in A Manual for Developing Leaders for Disciples Fellowships by E. F. Lundwall, Jr. 

Method 1

Build Your Own Disciple-Making Convictions.

Study all the passages where the words: disciple and disciples are found. Read reference books on the historical development of the method and use of making disciples, both in Greek society and Jewish groups. Discern the relationship between water baptism and discipleship, even in reference to Moses (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2). You cannot infuse disciple’s lifestyle or convictions that you do not have from your own investigation. You cannot convince them that being disciples is the will of God if you are not really convinced yourself. For when things become difficult you will abandon Christian apprentice training as a lifestyle for the old ineffective habits of ministry. While the Lord commanded us to preach (Mark 16:15), He also commanded making disciples with all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18, 19).

Method 2

Preach And Teach What You Discover.

As you begin to discover things about disciple making, preach and teach on the basis of "sharing" your investigations. Contrast the soils in the parable of farmer sowing seed. Trace the development of the twelve disciples and contrast their lives with others in the Gospel stories. Cite Romans 8:28, 29 along with Luke 9:23–25 and teach that the purpose of being a disciple is putting into one’s life experience what was seen in the life of Christ and taught by Christ Himself. Experiencing “Christ in you, the hope of glory” is to reach for maturity in faith and practice.

Especially point out the methods that Christ used with His disciples: meditating on the meaning of His sermons, observing personal work, teaching through encouraging questions on their part as you ask questions also. Then, observe how the Apostolic Church was marked as disciple makers and used small groups in developing their members. Point out the different types and ministry purposes that these small groups preformed. Preach on passages that speak of spiritual development and stewardship. Hebrews 11 is a fertile place to find characters that illustrate life-long spiritual development. Call them to imitate the Apostle Paul’s heart especially as found in Philippians 3:9–15. Exhort them to seek God’s approval (2 Timothy 2:15) and fellowship through getting and practicing Christ’s commands (John 14:21, 23). Paul’s instruction to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:2) for ongoing ministry in his disciple-making church can be shown to be a restatement of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20).

Method 3

Start A Pilot Growth Class.

After inviting your people to commit to lifestyles that reflect the worthiness of the Lord (Romans 12:1–3; Ephesians 4:1), ask for volunteers to conserve (record and meditate and discuss) the benefits of sermons in twelve weeks of meeting with the purpose of putting them into practice. You may use the Disciples Sermon Worksheet to begin and, later, as appropriate to the nature of the message, use the Disciples Learning Application Exercise. (See Manual)

When the twelve weeks is over, challenge them to another for the purpose of becoming regularly "sharing" disciples and church promoters. A sharing disciple differs from a witnessing Christian. The nature of a witnessing Christian is usually in a short time and often times an uninvolved relationship. Too frequently, there is no design to have a continuing ministry to the person to whom they witness. In contrast, a sharing disciple first establishes some kind of personal and friendship relationship, usually upon some common interest. This may be being a neighbor, or business associate, or something related to children, school or political or social interests, it can be any number of common interests. Once established, sharing spiritual things begins like sharing any common interest or possible interests. Shared spiritual things would begin one of those things that you are interested in but they may or may not have had interest in. The pattern or design to become a “sharing disciple” is found in the “Disciples Reproductive Training Exercise” in Chapter 5 of A Manual for Developing Leaders for Disciples Fellowships by E. F. Lundwall, Jr.

Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Build a Disciple-Making Church

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Getting Started

The general goal of this curriculum outline is to begin maturing certain members as a core group for developing a disciple-making ministry in the local church. The basic reference, besides the Scriptures, is "A Manual for Developing Leaders for Disciples Fellowships" by E. F. Lundwall, Jr. Here are the questions it seeks to answer:

Is there a need for comprehensive discipleship in the Local Church?

Should training disciples be a life style for the local church?

Can church members develop as mature believers without a comprehensive disciple-making ministry?

What is the evidence that it is God’s will that disciple-making should be a comprehensive ministry?

Can it be done without overwhelming the senior pastor?

What role must the senior pastor play?

Developing the Vision – Part I

"Where there is no vision, the people perish: . . ."  Proverbs 29:18 KJV

"But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples; the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few."  Matthew 9:36–37 KJV

Vision 1

Visualize the local church as God’s primary base of operations.

"I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth;" 1 Timothy 3:15 NKJV

The church’s functional importance emanates from God’s design for it to be ". . . the pillar and ground of the truth." For where God dwells, the truth is present for He is the truth. Further, it is only when He is honored as Lord by faith that believers can access his truth. When Christ’s Lordship characterizes church life, the positive side of truth be can manifested. Then it is manifested not only on earth, but also in the heavenlies (Ephesians 3:10). The Church will then prepare itself and its members for spiritual warfare that cannot be avoided (Ephesians 6:10–20; Titus 1:9). God’s truth is the weapon that Christ’s soldiers must use (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5). Therefore, as hard as traditional habits are to change, they must be changed or altered, if the Church is to operate as a fruitful branch for her Lord and Head.

The scriptural design for the Church is to develop to be and operate as a self edifying organism (Ephesians 4:11–16). For this to be a possible, the Lord gives spiritually gifted and mature men to make it function. The Lord’s plan is for the mature to make and mature disciples. Without discipling the church will not, as a way of life, reproduce its leadership. The Lord has promised His enabling presence to accomplish this discipling stewardship (Matt 28:19–20).

The design is that believers are to be in partnership (the sense of the Greek word for fellowship) with the Lord (1 John 1:3). With any partnership both must do their part, and the Lord never fails.

Vision 2

Be convinced that foundation discipleship is the will of God.

To accomplishment the building of a disciple-making church, its leadership must be persuaded that it is the will of God. In the inescapable spiritual warfare between tradition and "bringing every thought into obedience to Christ," (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5) only that which is conviction will endure the conflict (Matt 13:3–23).

The Lord commanded us to follow his example of ministry (John 20:21). Disciple making was a notable part of His ministry: "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)" (John 4:1, 2 KJV). The Lord’s instruction to new believers was to prove the reality of their relationship by being His "disciples indeed." "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31–32 KJV). At an appointed time and place, the Lord Jesus cited His complete authority as the context of His command to make disciples to the end of the age (Matt 28:16–20), an emphasis found in the original Greek text and some modern translations.

The Greek word for “disciple” has the sense of being an apprentice. As an apprentice of whatever trade, philosophy or skill works with his teacher until he had mastered the skill or knowledge of his teacher. Then he would become an agent for his master, or a representative of his master’s expertise.

God’s design for Israel was that through their obedience to Him through His Law that the Gentiles would be influenced to know Him. "For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth." (Acts 13:47 KJV compare Isa 49:6). This is why the Pharisees called themselves disciples of Moses (John 9:28; Matt 23:15). In the Great Commission, the Lord commanded his remaining eleven apprentices to train other disciples by teaching them his Word and thereby making and maturing disciples unto the end of this age (Matt 28:16–20). The Apostle Paul made this the point of his final instruction to Timothy: "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2, 3 NASU).

The goal is ambitious, but commanded. Perhaps none of us, after the Apostles, have ever come to this level of understanding. As disciples this should be the goal of our self concept. As such, we can learn a competent level of Scripture knowledge to edify the Church (2 Timothy 2:2), protect it from satanic error (Acts 20:26–30) and have the approval of God (2 Timothy 2:15). This was the beginning and still is the foundation of the church---being maturing disciples ourselves and training other as well. It is the will of God. By embracing our Lord’s command (Matt 28:16–20), those that we minister to will think of themselves as disciples. They will adopt a disciple’s self concept so that their life style will grow to be that of New Testament disciples.

Vision 3

Remember that making disciples is a measurable attitude and ministry.

There are at least two popular false views of being a disciple. Neither of these are tied to the etymological development and use of the Greek word. Some think that anyone who professes faith is a disciple. With this understanding, being a disciple has no inherent motivation to progress in spiritual life; one is either a believer or not. The Lord Jesus said that a true or committed disciple is one who sets his mind to letting the ministry of God’s Word make him free from the domination of sin (John 8:31–36). Others believe that a disciple is a super Christian. This view of being a disciple also defeats progress for most people. If being a disciple is being a super Christian, most would feel that there is no use in trying, for this goal is beyond their ability. A brief study of the Gospels show that the original disciples were sometimes nominal, and other times, displayed various levels of spiritual maturity.

From the etymology of the Greek word for disciple, it appears to simply mean “a learner from a teacher.” However, in the New Testament, six progressive levels of being a disciple are presented:

The first level is being a curious disciple, just wanting to investigate spiritual life and the Person of Christ. They start on their terms (John 6:22–64), but must learn and embrace Christ’s terms of relationship (John 1:14–51).

The second level of being a disciple is being a convinced disciple. They become convinced that Jesus is the Christ and God’s Savior for human beings (John 8:30). Remember, however, the Lord Jesus said that they must continue in the ministry of His Word until they become freed from the ignorance of sin and its domination to be accepted by Him to be His "disciples indeed" (John 8:31–36).

The third level of being a disciple is to be committed to Him by faith to experience new life from Him. They must take up a disciple’s cross to experience deliverance from the old sinful and mortal life and gain the life principle and life style that comes from Him in spiritual rebirth (Luke 9:23–25; Romans 6:11, 13, 16; Galatians 2:20). The grammatical relationship between "baptizing them into the Name" shows that baptism is the confessional point of beginning of a committed disciple or "my disciples indeed." Baptism symbolizes the ending of an old status of being just a child of sinful Adam to being a child of God by union with the Lord Jesus (Romans 6:1–16).

The fourth level of spiritual life as a disciple is that of being a reproductive disciple. The Lord Jesus said to his twelve apprentices that they must abide in Him to be abundantly fruitful (John 15:1–8).

The fifth level of spiritual life as a disciple is that of being a leadership disciple. This is a status of being called to shepherd God’s people (Acts 1:1–26; 20:28–31).

The sixth level as a disciple is in special ministries, such as being a missionary (Acts 9:36; 13:1–5).

With this progressive understanding of discipleship, a ministry can be built that harmonizes with the particulars in the many passages that speak about disciples. For greater detail, when desired, see my booklet Making Disciples on Six Levels, or the section in my manual, A Manual For Training Leaders For Disciple Fellowships In The Local Church. (See “Publications in the index of Distinctive Discipleship.)

Vision 4

Develop a fellowship group intent on being Level 6 disciples.

From the earliest history of Christian apprenticeship, the believers worked with a teacher in group relationships. This was the model set by the Lord Jesus as he worked with the Twelve; He used groups to minister to individuals according to their various needs.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Meditation on His Glory in Luke 22

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Meditation on Luke 22 – Part II

Exactly what glory can anyone expect to find in Luke 22 which begins with Israel’s leadership treachery with Judas in planning Jesus arrest and ends with his condemnation by Israel’s ruling counsel, the Sanhedrin? How gloomy the picture of this high holiday, the Passover, when the Lord has to hide the place where he plans to celebrate its feast with his best friends. He knew one of his closest disciples, Judas, was looking for an opportunity to place him into is murderous jeopardy. How heavy His heart must have been that in the midst the cherished meal in which He gave the Bread and the Cup as a way to remember Him and the sacrifice which he was soon to be. His heart must have been heavy to have revealed and announced Judas’ imminent betrayal, and then watch the man leave to pursue that end. Imagine having to settle a prideful squabble among his most intimate followers as they ambitiously vied for favorable positions in the future kingdom of their Lord. Then, upon all of that, He know that his dear Peter, with all his blustering about loyalty and commitment, would deny even knowing Him before the sun rose again.

All this, when Jesus “longed to celebrate” his last meal with them, wanting to communicate his last important teachings and personal feelings to them while facing what He had told them would happen…something they continued to misunderstand, ignore, or deny. In the presence of such insensitive and self-absorption, Jesus could have easily asked himself, “Will it be worth it?”

Here in lies the essence of the glory. Jesus’ experience of suffering anguish and temptation was so severe that God, the Father, had to send an angel to strengthen His body so wracked with contemplation of the sacrifice He wanted to make, that His sweat great drops of blood that fell to the ground as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. His suffering was of so infinite an intensity that He pleaded, nearly begged: "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14:36). Hebrews 5:7 explains that his pleading was very intense, "…with strong crying and tears…" because He felt all of humanity’s sin about to come upon Him and all the intense suffering our deserved eternal Hell! He who not only knew no sin, but was the holiness of eternal deity in bodily expression, was about to become sin! Only on the cross did his torturous inner struggle force him to cry out: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Each must answer: “For me!”

Indeed, most all things are valued by how much they cost! Much value is assigned to Jesus physical suffering during the crucifixion, but little is expounded about the great price of this emotional trauma Jesus prior to that. Truly glory is magnified by the price He paid for our redemption in the intense suffering He suffered in the few days before He suffered on the day of his ignominious, unjust execution.

Let us look to Jesus “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). His joy resided in his loving belief that we were worth whatever it cost him; in that is found the glory that rightfully belongs to him. Yes, his is “the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Related reading:  Glory in Luke 22, Part I

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Glory in Luke 22

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Meditations on Luke 22 – Part I

The word glory has many uses, all of which indicate obviously great value. Those who possess it have a condition of great value, but the generic value of glory is found only in what it describes. The dictionary defines glory as "The condition of highest achievement, splendor, prosperity…" I define glory as "Being obviously worthwhile!"

Luke 22 is logically a poor chapter to inspire thinking about glory as it relates so much anguish: The manipulation of Judas, the last Passover Jesus would spend with his disciples, Jesus explanation of his imminent death, the selfish ambition and misunderstanding of his closest friends, the agony of relinquishment on the Mount of Olives, the betrayal and violence of his arrest, the mockery and torture of Jesus' illegal trials, and Peter's denials. What glory is shown here? What accomplishments that conveys good feelings or positive worth? This description of the Lord Jesus’ last farewell to those personally closest to him, key figures in whole program of redemption, only leaves the casual reader disheartened.

However, when Luke 22 is examined more carefully, glory resides within its every detail. It portrays the intense emotional and mental sacrifice experienced by Jesus prior to his physical sacrifice in crucifixion, the anticipatory emotional struggle of intentionally choosing to suffer for sake of our salvation…something that Jesus thought of “being obviously worthwhile.”

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Seventh Triumph of Christ's Resurrection

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

A Seventh Triumph of Christ's Resurrection: Equipping for Discipleship

The institutions of mankind have been numerous throughout the ages, yet none has survived through the flow of time like the Christian Church. Before being made a participant in Christ's resurrection, men could do nothing to please God. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;" (Rom 3:23). "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7, 8). However, the iglesia, or Church as defined by Jesus Christ as a group of people who would believe He was “the Christ, the son of the living God” as declared by Simon Peter in Matthew 16:16, was and still is a new kind of community which supersedes man-made institutions…a “God-thing”…because it is sustained by the Resurrected Christ Himself, and would never be overcome even by “the gates of Hell.” How?

Christ promised (John 16:7-11) and sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-9) after He ascended to be the “Helper” (literally “the one that comes along side to help”) and to teach the church all the things that He had commanded (John 16:13-15). Also "….When he (Christ) ascended up on high, (i.e., because He was resurrected) he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men . . . And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: . . . From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:8, 11, 12, 16). God-given spiritual gifts sustain believers and allow for the church (called the Bride of Christ) to be self-edifying and multiplying through the generations until it is claimed by its Bridegroom, Christ, upon his promised return (Acts 1:7-11).