Hangin' Out in Karongue

Hangin' Out in Karongue

Friday, July 29, 2011

What is a Disciple?

The word “disciple” is used around 275 times in the New Testament. Though the word is used exclusively in the Gospels and in Acts, the concept of discipleship is found throughout the entire New Testament. The word translated “disciple” simply means “learner” or “pupil” and it carried with it the idea of being a student or a follower of a person. It would have been similar to the modern day idea of apprenticeship where the less experienced learned from the more experienced, seeking to emulate them and their life. The task of the disciple was to learn from their master and to then pass along the teachings of their master to others and thus spread the teaching of the master beyond his own personal realm of influence.

When “disciple” is used in the New Testament it most often applies to followers of Jesus Christ. Sometimes it refers to the twelve disciples, it is sometimes a reference to a larger group of followers that included the twelve, but went beyond them, and in Acts it is used to refer to all those who are followers of Jesus Christ. This is important to see, because all Christians are disciples of Jesus: we are His followers who are committed to Him and to following Him and His teachings. And as such we are seeking to emulate Him. In Luke 6:40 Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Jesus’ point was that over time the disciple would begin to live as the teacher did.

We could define discipleship like this: Discipleship is learning from God’s Word how to live my life as Jesus would live it, striving to live that way, and teaching others to do the same. So there is a learning component, a doing component where you put what you have learned into practice, and then a teaching component where you take what you have learned and what you are doing and transfer that to others helping them to become disciples as well.

This concept of discipleship is seen in the life of Ezra, a priest and scribe of the fifth century B.C. The direction of Ezra’s life is summed up in Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel.” The phrase “set his heart” denotes certainty: Ezra had established that this was simply how it was going to be for his life. He had set his heart upon learning and knowing God’s Word, doing God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word to others.

Ezra set his heart to “study the Law of the Lord.” The word “study” has the idea of “seeking or searching for frequently” and conveys a serious desire for something. So for Ezra, God’s Word was not just something that he could either take or leave; it was something in which he had a burning desire and passion to learn and know. Ezra realized that to know God’s Word is to know the God of His Word, so he came to the Bible with a desire to know God.

But Ezra also set his heart to do it. He wanted to be the man that James would later write about who is not just a hearer of the Word, but a doer of the Word (James 1:22). Studying the Bible and coming to know God in a deeper way is not just an academic exercise, it is a call to action. And God uses His Word to make disciples of Jesus more like their Master as He conforms their lives to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). Any study of God’s Word that does not lead to “doing” is not truly fruitful study!

Ezra’s study of the Word that led to his doing of the Word did not end there. He then sought to pass along what he was learning and doing. Ezra taught God’s “statutes and rules in Israel” so that people would come to truly know and experience this God. Teaching is not just standing before a class and giving a lecture. It is sharing your life with others so that they can learn and benefit from what Jesus is doing in your life. Colossians 3:16 gives instruction to every disciple of Jesus when it says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”

I pray that God would give us all a heart like Ezra: a heart that was set upon learning the Word, living the Word, and then teaching the Word. And when we have a heart like that what was said of Ezra may be said of us: “For the good hand of His God was on him” (Ezra 7:9).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"All Senegal for Christ!"

I was recently asked, “Why do you call your ministry ‘All Senegal for Christ’?” That’s a good question that really has
two answers. The first is that we desire all of Senegal to come to faith in Jesus Christ. We often ask ourselves, “What would Senegal be like if it were not 95% Muslim, but were instead 95% Christian?”

But the second reason we say, “All Senegal for Christ” is a bit more personal. In May of 2009 I baptized Abdoulaye Bodian who was the first Christian in the village of
Diouloulou; a village of around 7,000 people. After his baptism he sat on the bank of the river on an old dugout canoe and we made a video of him sharing his testimony of what Jesus had done in his life.

The only problem was that Abdoulaye was so excited he
could not make the video in English; he would only speak French. So he goes on in the video for a few minutes speaking very excitedly and we have no idea what he is saying. But as he comes to a close he begins to point in the direction of some of the surrounding villages and he calls out the village names. Then, with arms raised, he exclaims in English, "All Senegal for Christ!"

That phrase, spoken by a former Muslim who was now a new creation in Christ, truly captured our hearts. Pray for Abdoulaye and pray with us that all Senegal might come to know Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Are you a "doulos"?

It is interesting to notice how the writers of the New Testament refer to themselves in their letters. As the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the church in Rome he writes, “This letter is from Paul, Jesus Christ's slave, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News” (Romans 1:1). James begins his letter by saying, “This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). The Apostle Peter starts his second letter by writing, “This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). And the first words of Jude’s letter read, “This letter is from Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (Jude 1:1). The one thing that they all have in common was that they consider themselves slaves of Jesus. Rather than refer to themselves as church planters or missionaries or leaders, or even referring to themselves exclusively as apostles, they chose to be known as slaves of Jesus.

Slavery was a reality in the first century Roman Empire. Estimates of slavery in that culture vary with some reporting slaves being in upwards of 50% of the population and some showing slaves making up 20% of the population. A realistic number is probably somewhere in between, but whichever figure is true it is more than apparent that slavery flourished in the first century.

While the tasks of slaves varied, one thing that all slaves had in common was that they were the property of someone else. Slaves were considered living tools with each one having an owner. A Roman could buy, rent, or sell a slave as he would any other piece of property. Paul had this truth in mind when he wrote, “Likewise he who is called while free is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 7:22b-23a). Jesus, our Master, has paid for us with His life and we are now His possession.

The word “slave” or “bondservant” that is used in the passages above comes from the Greek word doulos and is a word that means “pertaining to a state of being completely controlled by someone or something; to be subservient to someone else; one who gives himself up wholly to another’s will.” So as slaves of Jesus we are now to be completely controlled by and subservient to Him. As His followers we are to give ourselves up wholly to His will and live for Him and not for ourselves.

But a slave of Jesus lives not just to serve Jesus, but also to serve others. 1 Corinthians 9:19 says, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” A Christian’s servitude to Jesus is lived out in the service of others. A person who is a slave of Jesus will follow the example of their Master who said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” so that He could serve us by dying on the cross in our place and for our sins (Philippians 2:7-8).

Are you able to refer to yourself as many of the New Testament writers did: a slave of Jesus? Begin today to live life as a slave of Jesus Christ and experience the grace and love of the Master who says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Without Words Wednesday

Fourth of July water balloon launch!

Ez with some of his new friends
Hiking with some friends in the DuPont Forest

Thea getting ready to ride the falls!

The Girls!

Picnic off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Friday, July 15, 2011

You know you're in intercultural training when...

A few weeks ago those of us who will be living in remote areas of the world met at our apartment and had a crash-course on suturing by Dr. Scott (a student at CIT). With a half-dozen fresh pig's feet spread out on our dining room table we practiced stitching and stapling up cuts. I am not sure that we are ready for the real thing or not, but if you have a wounded pig please do not hesitate to call us!  

"Gayle, let me show you how to do this. I have been
stitching up pig's feet for over 20 minutes now."
Ez even got in on the action by stapling the pigs cut.
The finished product!

Monday, July 11, 2011

You know you're in intercultural training when...

Yesterday we went for a long drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway with the family. After we had been in the car for a few hours this conversation took place:

Hosanna: "I want to go home!" (meaning back to our apartment at CIT)

Ezra: "With a statement like that, it's obvious that you are experiencing culture shock."