A Pilgrim’s Progress Perspective

In the following exchange from John Bunyan’s famous work, consider how the health and wealth “gospel” is still attractive today, yet no less divisive.

“Now, I saw in my dream that Christian and Hopeful proceeded on at their former good pace while Mr. By-ends dawdled along as best suited on his fancy for he was a rather rich and lazy fellow. But one of them, chancing to look back, saw three other men join themselves to Mr. By-ends: Mr. Hold-the-world, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all.

        By-ends: “Oh,” he complained dourly, “those two [Christian & Hopeful] are so legalistic and so much in love with their own opinions that they will not keep company with any but those who agree with them.”

         Save-all: “Well, no matter,” with a resigned air, “wherever we may go, we are sure to find some who are religious     overmuch. But pray tell, sir, what were your differences?”

          By-ends: “Well, for one thing, these fellows are so bullheaded that they consider it their duty to press on their journey  no matter what the weather while I am all for waiting till the wind and tide be favorable”

        Hold-the-world: “But of course! ‘Tis only good sailing sense. Why, ask any sailor. ‘Sail with the tide,’ they’ll tell you. ‘With   the tide!'”

           By-ends: “So I told them!”

           Money-love: “What else?” As he adjusted his fine ostrich-plumed hat.

           By-ends: “Another major difference is that they are all for making their religion the most important thing in the world while I am for securing to myself the comforts of this life. After all, did not the Lord tell us to ‘abide till He come?'”

           Save-all: “Yes, indeed. And what else, pray tell?”

          By-ends: “Well, they are all for holding to their belief though all the world be turned against them. But I am for religion only to the extent that it is popular to be so.”

           Money-love: “Very wise. ‘Go with the flow’-that’s my motto. Is that all?”

         By-ends: “Yes, except that they are for standing by their religion whether popular or contemptible, whether in rags or riches. But I espouse Him only when, on sunny days, He walks smooth streets in His silver slippers, wind at His back,  and with good applause.”

            Hold-the-world: “Here! Here!” he proclaimed loudly.

         Save-all: “We must be wise as serpents. Does not God send both rain and sun? And if they be fools enough to slog ahead through muck and mire, at least let us be wise enough to take shelter till the sun comes again.”

           By-ends: “Aye! I am in full agreement.”

Bunyan, John. (1678). Pilgrim’s Progress (Translated by Jim Pappas, 2001)

Excerpt from Signet Ring Magazine Discipleship Issue.

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The Reading Disciple

“When you come, bring … the books, and above all the parchments.”

2 Timothy 4:13

I have a nook, the eReader from Barnes & Noble.  From it I have access to just about any book I want, leaving me without excuse to find time for reading.   J. Oswald Sanders suggested a minimum of half an hour a day to feed the soul and stimulate the mind. John Wesley’s passion for reading allowed him to consume thousands of books– while on horseback!  The sweeping number of books available today is a bit unsettling. Considering our mission as Christ-followers, we should discriminate between what will encourage discipleship and what will squander our time.  After all, when reading, we have fellowship with the author through the turning of pages.  Here are some modern day writers and their suggestions of great minds to hold community with:

MARK BATTERSON

The Circle Make
Author’s Recommended Reads: The Divine Conspiracy:
Dallas Willard and the Pursuit of God: A.W. TozerThe Circle Maker

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church, www.theaterchurch.com, in Washington, DC. He has authored many best-selling books, including his latest The Circle Maker.  Batterson encourages us to draw prayer circles around our dreams.  Prayer is a central part of discipleship and a way God accomplishes great things in us. The book centers around Honi the Circle Maker– a man who drew a circle in the sand and did not move from inside it until God answered his prayers for his people. The Circle Maker is loaded with inspiring stories from Batterson’s own life, an aspect of most of his writings, which helps to expose your heart’s desires and God-given dreams. The Circle Maker and it’s companion study guide serve as a great resource for any discipleship group.  After asking Batterson what books he would suggest on discipleship,  he replied with two… The Divine Conspiracy: Dallas Willard and The Pursuit of God: A.W. Tozer.

NEIL COLE     

Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are                                Author’s Recommended Reads: Untamed: Al & Deb Hirsch, Master Plan for Evangelism: Robert E. Coleman, and The Normal Christian Life: Watchman Nee

Organic Leadership

Neil Cole is one of the key architects of the organic or simple church movement. He is the author of multiple books which can be obtained at CMA Resources, an organization Cole founded. In Organic Leadership, Cole writes of the lack of true discipleship paralyzing the church today.  He boldly challenges the modern day view of more programs, more people, and more money equalling a successful church. He instead offers a more grassroots approach that will grow more leaders for a greater harvest!  If you are searching for a book to help you stay on mission, this is it. Upon request, Cole offered three of his favorites on discipleship… Untamed: Al & Deb Hirsch, Master Plan of Evangelism: Robert E. Coleman, and The Normal Christian Life: Watchman Nee

FRANCIS CHAN

 Crazy Love                                                                                                                             Author’s Recommended Reads: Desiring God: John Piper, Knowledge of the Holy: A.W.Tozer, and Radical David Platt

Crazy LoveFrancis Chan is the best-selling author of Crazy Love, Forgotten God, & Erasing Hell.  Chan is currently focused on starting a church planting movement in San Francisco and working towards the launch of a nationwide discipleship movement.  In Crazy Love, Chan notes there is something wrong when our response to God’s love is a lukewarm faith, a list of do’s & don’ts, and flocking to a building once a week.  Chan argues that our lives should be radically changed by God’s relentless love for us.  Crazy love calls you to live a life that fights the good fight and finishes the race– the marks of a true disciple. This is another great book for group study loaded with tons of resources.  Here are three must reads according to Chan:  Desiring God: John Piper, Knowledge of the Holy: A. W. Tozer, and Radical: David Platt.

The apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy to take reading to heart serves as an example to all of us.  A book is a pipeline of ideas from one mind to an another.  Once we’ve grasped those ideas, hopefully we are moved to action. In The Use and Abuse of Books, A. W. Tozer explains, “One reason why people are unable to understand great Christian classics is that they are trying to understand without out any intention of obeying them.”  Don’t let the fellowship of ideas stop with you.  A disciple applies what he has learned.

Steve Swain

 Excerpt from Signet Ring Magazine Discipleship Issue.

A Guide to Devotions

           Daily Devotions!  How can I make time in my day for that?  I’m already so busy I can’t get to everything I need to do!  Sound familiar?  As Christians, we’ve probably all made these comments.  But to build a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we need to make time for our daily devotions.  Like any habit, we must make the effort and build devotions into our day until it becomes just that, a habit, something we do routinely.  But that doesn’t mean without thought.  I would like the reader to think about how to make time to get to know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, His Father, and the Holy Spirit.

          As a new Christian, it might be easier to develop a daily devotional time, since before we became Christians our days were filled with activities that did not bring honor to the Father.  Once we turn our lives over to Christ, however, we need to put those activities behind us and fill our time with things that please Him.  When we enter into any relationship, how do we get to know the other person?  By talking with them, sharing information and experiences!  We develop our relationship with Christ in the same way, by talking with Him through prayer and by sharing His experiences via reading them in the Scriptures.

          The equipment you need to start your devotions can be very simple.  I recommend a Bible translation you are comfortable with, (I like the NIV) and a journal, which can be as simple as a composition book or one of the prayer journals you can purchase at your local Christian bookstore.  A daily devotional booklet is a good tool as well.  There are many out there, and I would start with something like The Daily Bread, The Upper Room, or even a calendar with a devotional thought for the day.  You might want to add Christian music, but do not allow it to distract you from your primary purpose, which is getting to know Christ.  Your purpose here is to be actively involved in relationship building, not entertainment.  You should allow enough quality time to get involved in the process, which is probably not at the end of the day when you are exhausted!  I have known of people who get up an hour earlier than usual to do their devotions.  I also know people who use their lunch hour.  You have to decide when the best time is, but make sure you can be consistent.

          Each person is going to start their devotions in a different way.  Some will begin with prayer and praise.  Some will read their devotional booklet first.  Others will listen to praise music to settle the heart.  You must develop your own routine.  I like to read the devotional first, then the Scriptures, followed by contemplating what those Scriptures mean to me.  I use my prayer journal to write down questions I might have about the reading, the needs of those I love, and specific prayer requests.  I also like to write down things I am thankful for, things that bring me joy!  As the weeks and months go by, it is very rewarding to go back and see how my prayers have been answered and how my priorities have changed!

         As your devotions become more routine, you may find you want to read more and pray less, particularly if you are involved in a Bible study that involves preparation.  Don’t neglect your prayer time; that is your most valuable tool in building your relationship with Christ!  Prayer is your opportunity to really get to know Christ, to ask Him questions and reveal your heart’s desires.  And remember to have some quiet time; once you have asked all those questions and made all those requests, God wants time to answer!

        My relationship with Christ is nearly 48 years old!  He has been my father, my brother, and my friend!  The Holy Spirit has comforted me, instructed and guided me through life!  Always remember, Jesus loves each of us and wants only the best for us.  Make time to know Him better.  God is good!

In Christ’s love,

Linda D. Birch

Woodland United Methodist Church

Excerpt from Signet Ring Magazine Discipleship Issue.