Monday, August 27, 2012

Jesus Calls Us All to be His Disciples!

     Being a sincerely dedicated disciple, a true follower of Jesus, is the only option for those of us, who have become children of God by receiving Jesus and coming to believe that Jesus is the Light Who has come into the world, the incarnate Word, the one and only begotten God the Son (John 1:9-18).

    Being disciples willing to follow Jesus wherever He leads us, has always been God's plan for His children. The Great Commission of Jesus is emphatically His last word on the subject.

     Jesus chose to meet the eleven apostles who remained with Him after His death and resurrection, on a mountain in Galilee that He had designated to them. Many commentators believe that others may have also been present at this gathering. Some have linked this passage with the description Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 15:6, regarding over 500 eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus, many of whom remained alive even to the time Paul wrote His letter in the mid-50's AD.

     Whatever the actual number of people who were gathered there in the mountain, when they saw Jesus they were overcome, fell down before Him and worshipped Him, even while some of them continued to doubt. (Matthew 38:16-17)

     As we pick up the narrative in verse 18, Jesus initiates this final encounter recorded by Matthew, by stepping toward those who were overwhelmed and waiting in silence:

     Jesus approached and, breaking the silence, said to them, All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.

     Jesus affirms with this statement His absolute and complete control over all things, both in the spiritual realm and in the material world. This statement is as comprehensive as it can possibly be, covering every aspect of the created order. Jesus, in His divine nature, had always possessed all power and authority, but now had assumed the role of ultimate Lord in both His divine and human natures, as the The anthropic God-Man.

     Jesus' complete rule is based in both having divine authority and full power, with the total capacity and capability to accomplish what He authorizes. He provides Himself as the omnipresent and omnipotent Foundation, for bringing His Father's will to pass on earth as it is in heaven, in bringing all creation into alignment with His Kingdom rule and reign.

     With Himself, His ultimate authority, and His almighty power as the basis of His Kingdom, Jesus then presents His desire, and His unfolding plan to wrest control from, then conquer and subjugate the kingdoms of this world and all the devil's domain.

     It is His followers who are given the central part to play in this cosmic battle:

     Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

      The Great Commission is our last commandment from Jesus, not an option to be taken if we want to or not. We are required to go, to be moved about, and to be placed wherever Jesus desires for us to be.

     He is in command of a multi-generational, multi-continental global force, to be deployed anywhere and everywhere. If we never submit to His sending us as the Father has sent Him (John 20:21), we may  never be used as God truly intends for us.

      So, our first step in being a true and dedicated disciple is to ask the Lord if we are where we belong. If we receive peace about being where we are, or we get a specific sense of purpose about being there, this may be confirmation that Jesus has placed us is that spot for now.

      Even if we are where we should be, we must have the mindset of continual openness to the command of "GO." To go when and where we are told to go must always be part of our being a committed follower of Jesus.

     Without a real willingness to follow Jesus anywhere He takes us, we can never sincerely say we are His followers!

     The obvious prerequisite for the next step to "make disciples" is to be a disciple ourselves. If we have settled the matter that Jesus is Lord and Master over where we should be, we really are on our way to being heartfelt and committed disciples.

     Jesus' design is based on our willingness to go, which is reinforced by that fact that the disciples we make, will be from "all the nations."

     Although this has clear application to global missions, it is also applicable to anyone going anywhere, across the street, across town, or around the world. The matter to be settled is not where, but to whom are we going.

     We are not sent by God to a piece of territory, but to His natural, created children He loves dearly, so that they can see us live out and share forth His Good News, to then become growing supernatural children forever, who will also be His disciples!

     Since people are everywhere, going to them is a matter of daily obedience in being totally open to God, to share whatever He prompts us to be His Holy Spirit, whether material things to meet their needs or spiritual truths to fill their souls.

     Jesus made it clear and simple what the elements of making disciples actually look like:
  • baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
  • Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you 
     As we consider these two aspects of becoming and then being a disciple of Jesus, we must first ask ourselves if these are operating within our own lives, both in regard to ourselves experiencing each element, as well as helping others to grow toward and into them.

     Most commentators do not recognize any temporal order in the elements of disciple making. There can be a tremendous amount of teaching necessary prior to a sincere decision to be baptized, or there could be a rapid initiation experience of receiving Jesus as Lord and being baptized in quick succession, followed by a long period of instruction.

     Being baptized into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is a potent personal experience of openly entering into the reality of all that God intends for His children.

     Baptism is not an addition to the simple faith declarations that we may have made in receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but is a continuation of the journey into a deeper and more complete surrender.

     Our full surrender is symbolized by our personal communion, with Jesus through baptism, into His death and resurrection. We are not only entering into greater intimate fellowship with Jesus, but fully with the Father and the Holy Spirit as well.

     The unity of the Godhead is underscored by Jesus use of "the Name" here as a singular word, not pluralized! The 3 Persons share this singular Name as One God. In contrast, each of the Persons of the Godhead is emphasized individually by the use of "the" before each personal Name that Jesus lists for the disciples gathered there.

     The baptismal declaration of our relationship with the Trinity initiates deep relationship: committing to our Father brings us close to Him as eternal children, with Jesus as our Redeemer and Brother, and with the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Empowerer!

     The other aspect of discipleship is to be taught to observe ALL that Jesus commanded us. For this understanding, we must have a teachable spirit and a passion to plum the depths of true knowledge of Jesus. We must be willing to ask and be given, to seek and find, and to knock, knowing that the Door will be opening to us.

     We must desire to look back and see every Old Testament text in the intense light of Jesus, as the highest level of interpretation and greatest goal of revelation, who every writer from Moses to Malachi spoke of, in a multitude of ways.

     We must also drink deeply from the fountain of the Gospels, where we can see Jesus in action, and hear His words in the context of those moments when He walked the earth.

     We must also attend to the echoes of His words in those of the apostolic writers of the New Testament. These knew Jesus in the natural and in the Spirit, in a variety of ways that made them fertile soil for the Holy Spirit to prompt fully inspired insights about Him, which will focus us and sustain us with the real meat of God's word.

     Each of these activities are at the core of the Great Commission and the life on earth of a fully dedicated disciple of Jesus, but they only have life in the full context of the last part of this foundational declaration:

     and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).

     This conclusion completes our understanding of the overall process of disciple making, which although acted upon by those of us called by God into this process, is actually founded on, initiated by, maintained through, and completed by God in partnership with us.

     Every part of being and making disciples flows only out of Jesus' own divine power and authority.

      Each disciple is invited into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that the Love of the Father, the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2  Corinthians 13:14) surround and endue us with His own strength, so that we are enabled in grace, to respond correctly in every situation.

     Jesus puts an exclamation point on this reality, by reminding His first disciples, and each generation since that time, that He is WITH US ALL THE DAYS!

     This is a promise that He has kept and will always keep through every situation, no matter what it looks like. He is the One that intercedes before our heavenly Father continually. There is no place we can go that He is not already there with us and for us.

     There is no adversity nor difficulty which is too great to stop Him from walking through with us, to fulfill His desires and our own personal destinies as His disciples!

Neil Uniacke


Monday, August 20, 2012

Re-connected by Scrabble

   I am the youngest of five children. My closest sibling is a brother, Glen, who is four years older than me.  Because of the age difference I was just kind of a tag-along little sister, but when I reached my teen years, Glen and I developed a close relationship and enjoyed each other's company very much. As it often happens in families, we each got married and went our own ways. Glen and his family moved to Florida and soon there was no communication between us at all. It wasn't that there was any friction; there was just no common ground and no reason for us to keep in contact with each other.

   We saw each other once a year around Christmas or over the summer and we would chat together, but the rest of the year we would go our separate ways and never have any communication with each other until the next family reunion. Sometimes in passing, we would each lament the distance that had come between the two of us, but there really didn't seem to be any way to resurrect our relationship. In 2008, Glen & his wife moved from Florida to the Washington D.C. area, but even though he was closer geographically it didn't make a difference in how often we communicated together.

   My mother loved Scrabble and she passed the love of the game on to her children. In the fall of 2009 when I joined Facebook I was delighted to find that they offered a Scrabble game that you could play with your friends. I began playing with a few people and though I loved it, I soon realized that these people hadn't grown up with it as I had and didn't have the knowledge of the game that I had.

   On December 26, 2009, I was enjoying a day free of holiday stress and was sitting at my computer wishing I had someone to play a good game of Scrabble with. I thought of Glen and wondered if he would be interested. Gathering my courage, I finally picked up the phone and called him. He was very agreeable to giving it a try and we were soon playing our first game of Facebook Scrabble. We were hooked. This was real competition. Having grown up playing against the same mother we attacked the game the same way and we both loved to try to out-strategize the other. Since that first time, we have played more than 180 games together.

   The best part about our Scrabble playing is that it has opened up the line of communication between the two of us. At first, we talked only Scrabble but gradually we moved on to other topics as well and we began to take more of an interest in each others families and activities.

   To restore or renew a relationship someone has to make the first move. I remember sitting at my computer that December day debating whether to give Glen a call. "Why would he want to play with me? Would he be annoyed that I called him? What if secretly he wishes I would not bother him? He's probably too busy anyway." These were only a few of the thoughts running through my mind. However, in the end I made the call and the rest is history.

   My reconnection came over a game of Scrabble. However, there are many ways to rekindle a lost relationship. Is there someone in your life that you would love to reconnect with? Take the initiative by contacting them in some way (phone, email, text, etc). I think you will find that they will be glad to hear from you.
Mary Lehman

Monday, August 13, 2012


My family enjoys vacationing in Vermont.  We stay in a cabin near a lake that allows us time to rest, hike, read, and visit local attractions. Vermont is a beautiful state with mountains and many streams that are visible as you travel any road and always offers me a time of refuge as a pass through its borders.

In September 2011 Hurricane Irene went through Pennsylvania and continued to Vermont where it brought rain, rain and more rain. The streams and rivers that often meander over rocks became ugly brown rushing torrents of water. Soon the water rushed over roads and flooded homes. Vermont experienced a vast amount of destruction especially in the middle of the state.

When we visited Vermont this past summer, I was amazed by the signs of destruction that were still very evident. Roads had been repaired and there were new rock beds along the side of the road. We saw some homes that were still half standing although they were completely destroyed. We went on a hike that we have gone on many times before. After hiking along part of the Appalachian Train, we went to the stream to cool off in the water. As the stream came into view we saw how the hurricane had changed the whole shape of this small body of water. The clearing leading to the stream was much larger and the stream itself was much smaller than we had ever seen it. It was still beautiful. We still cooled off. And, we still enjoyed ourselves. But, it was changed. Here and many other places throughout this gorgeous state we saw many scars.

I thought about my life. It is full of scars that have come through loss, hurt, shame and disappointment. But, there is still beauty there. In fact, the scars add to the beauty of each of our lives. Because of my scars, I can understand the pain that others go through. I can share grace, love and mercy as others go through difficulties because I have been extended grace, love and mercy myself.

Jesus' life is the ultimate example of a life that was scarred. He was beaten and died for me. I have a Savior who understands my pain. And, because He can understand, I find strength from Him. We do endure storms in our lives here on earth. I can allow those storms to devastate me, or I can allow them to bring more beauty into my life. 

As the song "Never Once" by Matt Redman says:

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did you leave us on our own.
You are faithful, God you are faithful
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone.

Deb Riddell
Closet Manager

Monday, August 6, 2012


In January of 2010, I was at the grocery store when I received a life-altering phone call from my gastro-entrologist. Just a few days before I got the call, he had performed an endoscopy on me. Since Christmas, I had been struggling with some stomach ailments and my liver counts were astronomically high. I was expecting him to call me with the pathology report, but was optimistic because when I came out of anesthesia, he explained that he had found a mass which appeared to be benign near my liver duct. I was standing at the deli counter waiting for my sliced pound of smoked turkey breast, when I heard the words, "Shannon, it's not good." He went on to say that he was shocked that the mass was a cancerous tumor. He had already contacted an oncologist and they would be calling me with an appointment time the next day. Thus began a year long journey of surgery and chemotherapy and radiation and all the changes and turmoil that come with it.

My husband, Jere, proved a very capable caregiver. He went with me to most of my initial appointments, helped me make decisions about my treatment and wrote regular emails to family and friends to keep them up-to-date with my progress. He spent as much time with me at the hospital as he could and still meet his work responsibilities. He scheduled people to stay with me when I got home. I developed an infection while I was in the hospital and had an open wound that needed cleaned and packed twice a day. He took care of that until I was capable of doing it on my own. He helped me bathe. He made meals. He cleaned the house or asked for help with it. All of that on top of working full-time. All of that on top of my irritability and grumpiness. All of that on top of the fear that he might lose his wife. He was extraordinary.

For those of you who are caregivers, I want to thank you for being extraordinary. You give and give and give. I know sometimes your loved ones are angry or depressed or agitated or don't know who you are. Sometimes (most times) you feel drained of all energy. Sometimes the emotion your loved one exhibits is the one you give back and it isn't always pretty, which makes you feel guilty. Sometimes you want to run away.

But there are also times you feel happy because your loved one is appreciative or responsive to your care. Sometimes you get to reminisce with your loved one and it's a sacred time for both of you.  Sometimes in the middle of the struggle, you also realize that you wouldn't want to be anywhere else because you love them so much and it's worth every tear.

Caregiving is a tough job. I want to let you know that your love, sacrifice and ministry are extraordinary and appreciated. God smiles at you as He watches you care for His child. He blesses you for extending yourself and He wants you to know that taking care of yourself is taking care of your loved one. Remember to find times to relax, to laugh, and to recreate. Don't forget to get "filled up" through worship music and good teaching and conversations with grounded people. You need those times so you have the energy to take care of your loved one.

Shannon Shertzer, MS, NCC
New Hope Counselor