Damascus threatens to launch “strategic” attack against Israel. Assad buying missiles from Russia. Requests 20 million rounds of ammunition.

This image made from video shows Syrian President Bashar Assad during an interview broadcast on Al-Manar Television on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Al-Manar Television via AP video)

This image made from video shows Syrian President Bashar Assad during an interview broadcast on Al-Manar Television on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Al-Manar Television via AP video)

Is Damascus counting down to the moment when it will launch a massive attack against the State of Israel using “strategic” weapons that could include weapons of mass destruction? That’s what Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to be signaling. The question is whether this is a bluff, or the prelude to all-out war with Israel.

My sense at the moment is that it’s a bluff. Assad’s steadily losing ground in his battle with the Radical Islamic rebels trying to take over Syria. He’s also losing ground in the court of international public opinion. It’s not surprising that he would want to talk tough at such a moment.

That said, the Russians appear to be selling Syria highly sophisticated missile systems and other types of weaponry. Indeed, Damascus has requested 20 million rounds of ammunition. Iran and Hezbollah are working around the clock to strengthen Assad’s hand. Not surprisingly then, Israeli military is on high alert. It’s defense minister is threatening to launch a preemptive strike against these state-of-the-art Russian missiles to keep them from becoming operational. And Israel’s homeland defense agency has been running nationwide drills to get people ready for the possibility of a missile attack from Syria, not unlike the one I write about fictionally in Damascus Countdown.

“Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview broadcast Thursday that he is ‘confident in victory’ in his country’s civil war, and he warned that Damascus would retaliate for any future Israeli airstrike on his territory,” reports the Associated Press, based on a TV interview on the Al-Manar network. “Assad also told the Lebanese TV station Al-Manar that Russia has fulfilled some of its weapons contracts recently, but he was vague on whether this included advanced S-300 air defense systems.”

“The comments were in line with a forceful and confident message the regime has been sending in recent days, even as the international community attempts to launch a peace conference in Geneva, possibly next month,” the AP noted. “The strong tone coincided with recent military victories in battles with armed rebels trying to topple him….”

“Taking a tough line, he also warned that Syria would strike back hard against any future Israeli airstrike,” AP reported. “Earlier this month, Israel had struck near Damascus, targeting suspected shipments of advanced weapons purportedly intended for Hezbollah. Syria did not respond at the time. Assad said he has informed other countries that Syria would respond next time. ‘If we are going to retaliate against Israel, this retaliation should be a strategic response,’ he said.”

In the article, the news service noted that “earlier this week, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel considered the S-300s in Syrian hands a threat and signaled it was prepared to use force to stop delivery. Israel had no comment Thursday. The S-300s have a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) and can track and strike multiple targets at once. Syria already possesses Russian-made air defenses. The U.S. and Israel had urged Russia to cancel the sale, but Russia rejected the appeals.”

>> Read Damascus Countdown, the New York Times best-selling novel.

>> To learn more about the work of The Joshua Fund — and/or to provide a tax-deductible contribution to this work — please visit www.joshuafund.net.

Damascus Countdown: Syria is “breaking up,” reports NYT. Ominous trend lines.

Syria-mapSeveral years ago, when I mapped out the plot for my novel, Damascus Countdown, I tried to imagine a scenario in which Iran and its agents would attempt to take over Syria, attempt to make it a fully-owned and operated province of the Islamic Revolution, and then try to use Syrian territory to launch a “War of Annihilation” against Israel.

What once seemed fictional premise now seems increasingly plausible.

The chaos, carnage and bloodshed in Syria continues unabated. Chemical weapons have been used in limited amounts but with tragic effect. But as bad as it has been so far, I don’t think we’ve seen the worst yet. As I have stated on this blog for months, the countdown to something worse appears to have started.

A growing number of analysts agree that Syria is imploding. Now, some very hard questions need to be asked:

  • How much longer can Assad and his regime hold on?
  • Will Syria completely collapse?
  • Can Syria ever really be put back together?
  • If they can’t help Assad survive and defeat the rebels, will Iran and Hezbollah move to take over Syria, or can Syria remain an independent sovereign country?
  • If Syria comes fully under its control, might Iran use Syrian territory to launch an apocalyptic attack on Israel?
  • Is it possible that in our lifetime we could actually see the end of the geopolitical entity known as the “Syrian Arab Republic”?
  • Is it possible that we will see the tragic utter destruction of Damascus as a city in our lifetime, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy?
  • What should the nations of the world be doing to help the people of Syria and help make peace?
  • What should the Church be doing to help those who are suffering, to care for our persecuted brothers and sisters, and to bring the good news to those in great darkness?

This column is not about offering answers to these questions today. Rather, my hope is simply to begin raising the right questions, and to draw your attention to the latest geopolitical assessments.

One thing is clear: the trend lines are ominous.

“After more than two years of conflict, Syria is breaking up,” reports the New York Times. “A constellation of armed groups battling to advance their own agendas are effectively creating the outlines of separate armed fiefs. As the war expands in scope and brutality, its biggest casualty appears to be the integrity of the Syrian state.”

The black flag of jihad flies over much of northern Syria. In the center of the country, pro-government militias and Hezbollah fighters battle those who threaten their communities. In the northeast, the Kurds have effectively carved out an autonomous zone….[A]s evidence of massacres and chemical weapons mounts, experts and Syrians themselves say the American focus on change at the top ignores the deep fractures the war has caused in Syrian society. Increasingly, it appears Syria is so badly shattered that no single authority is likely to be able to pull it back together any time soon. Instead, three Syrias are emerging: one loyal to the government, to Iran and to Hezbollah; one dominated by Kurds with links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey and Iraq; and one with a Sunni majority that is heavily influenced by Islamists and jihadis.”

“It is not that Syria is melting down — it has melted down,” said Andrew J. Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria. “So much has changed between the different parties that I can’t imagine it all going back into one piece.”

Headlines To Track:

>> Read Damascus Countdown, the New York Times best-selling novel.

>> To learn more about the work of The Joshua Fund — and/or to provide a tax-deductible contribution to this work — please visit www.joshuafund.net.

I’ll be speaking at the “Watchmen on the Wall” conference in D.C. on Thursday

watchmen-2013On Thursday, I will have the honor of addressing hundreds of pastors from all over the country for the “Watchmen on the Wall” conference in Washington, D.C. The conference is organized by the Family Research Council.

My friend Tony Perkins, president of FRC, has asked me to address the pastors on “The Church’s Call To Stand With Israel” and what The Joshua Fund is doing to bless Israel and her neighbors even as new war clouds are rising in the epicenter.

I’m not certain if the event will be webcast, but I’ll provide a link if it is.

Either way, I hope to post the notes of my talk later on Thursday after my session is completed.

In the meantime, please be praying for the pastors to be encouraged and refreshed during this conference. Pray that they would boldly preach the Gospel and carefully teach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Pray that the Lord would use them to bring about a Third Great Awakening in this country, as well as show unconditional love and unwavering support for Israeli, Palestinians and all the people of the epicenter. Thanks so much.

>> To learn more about the work of The Joshua Fund — and/or to provide a tax-deductible contribution to this work — please visit www.joshuafund.net.

Message #1: What Is Discipleship? (notes from the “Living The Invested Life” conference)

investedlife-smallNOTES FROM THE “LIVING THE INVESTED LIFE” CONFERENCE

What Is Discipleship?

Message #1

>> On Saturday, May 18th, I spoke at a men’s conference at McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia on discipleship. The theme of the conference was based on a book that I wrote with the pastor who discipled my wife and me in college, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of all Nations One Person at a Time. Here are the notes I used for my three talks as prepared for the delivery. Soon, I’ll post links to the videos of the messages and you can see precisely what a said.

————————————

Introduction
The year was 1929.

On Wall Street, the stock market had crashed – and with it, investor confidence had collapsed. A Great Depression was beginning to spread across the U.S. and Canada, across Europe and the entire globe.

Yet in Winnipeg, Canada, a young married couple were about to make an investment that would pay off big.

Their names were John and Edith Hayward, and one day they were contacted by their pastor to see if they would be willing to have a young international student come live with them while he studied agriculture.

The student was from India. He was raised a devout Sikh – but on the steamship to Canada, he had been dramatically converted and was now eager to grow in his newfound faith in Jesus Christ.

The Haywards loved Jesus, so they prayed about it, and the Lord gave them peace.

For the next three years, this young man lived in their home with them and their two pre-teen children, a boy and a girl. They ate meals together. They studied the Bible together. They prayed together. They went to church together. They discussed the sermons together. They answered his questions. They encouraged him.

In short, they invested in him. They discipled him.

But they had no idea the impact God was making through them.

The young man’s name was Bakht Singh, and when his studies were completed, the Lord called him back to India to preach the Gospel. And that he did.

Over the next few decades, Bakht Singh became the “Billy Graham of India.” God used him to set into motion the greatest spiritual awakening in the history of India. He preached the Gospel to millions. He saw untold thousands received Christ as their Savior. By God’s grace, he chose faithful men and discipled them, and together they planted more than 6,000 churches in India, Pakistan, Europe, Asia, and here in North America.

One of the men Bakht Singh discipled – indeed, someone who became his right hand man – was named T.E. Koshy. They traveled together. Studied together. Ate together. Prayed together. Preached the Gospel together. Made disciples together.

When Brother Bakht Singh went home to be with the Lord in 2000, more than 250,000 Indian Christians came to the funeral. They literally shut down the city of Hydrabad for the day. And Dr. Koshy – who was now one of three senior elders
overseeing those 6,000 congregations – preached the eulogy.

This story is special to me for many reasons, but one of which is became Dr. Koshy was the man who discipled my wife and me.

After many years serving at Bakht Singh’s side, the Lord called Dr. Koshy to the United States, to become a pastor, and an evangelist, and a disciple-maker, based as the evangelical chaplain at Syracuse University.

That’s where we met Koshy.

He became our pastor. He discipled us. He invested in us. He involved us in the Billy Graham crusade when it came to Syracuse in 1988. He performed our wedding when Lynn and I married in 1990.

Over the years, I would have the joy of traveling all over the world to do ministry with him – we preached the Gospel and trained pastors together in Israel, Iraq, and India.

And together, we wrote this book, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of All Nations One Person At A Time, hoping to share some of the lessons the Lord had taught us.

In this conference, we’ll explore three key issues that we discuss in the book:

  1. What is discipleship?
  2. How do I make disciples?
  3. What is the cost of discipleship?

God – The Investor

This is the greatness of our great God – He is an investor.

He’s in the business of turning nothing into something, and a little into a lot.

  • Out of nothing, God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Out of water, Jesus created wine
  • Out of five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus fed more than 5,000
  • Out of a handful of unruly, uneducated, unsophisticated men, Jesus made disciples who changed the world forever.

And that’s what He is doing in our lives.

God invested in us. He bought us. He chose us. Before the foundations of the world, He knew He was going to call us by name. And then He has given us every spiritual blessing.

And what He asks us to do – what He commands us to do – is invest what we’ve been given into others.

The Great Commission

In the next session, I will share some of my story of discipleship. But let’s start with a far more important story.

Two thousand years ago, in a dusty outpost of civilization, Jesus was born and raised and baptized and sent out by the Holy Spirit.

What did He do first? He invited a group of men who were curious about Him to “Come and see.” (John 1:39)

Before long, He became more clear, telling this small band of men, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

In time, Jesus told them, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” (Matthew 11:29)

By and by, He told these men, “Abide in Me (remain in Me), and I in you.” (John 15:4)

And then He told them, in effect, to “obey Me.”

  • “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
  • “You are My friends if You do what I command you.” (John 15:14)

Consider Christ’s approach:

  • Come and see
  • Follow Me
  • Learn from Me
  • Remain in Me
  • Obey Me

And what were His final marching orders to His disciples?

Let’s turn to Matthew 28:18-20 — “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”

  • This is what we call the “Great Commission” – Christ’s final marching orders to His disciples
  • All power and authority has been given to Jesus by the Father in heaven
  • Jesus Christ is in absolute control – He is in charge– not us
  • Do we believe that? Do we really believe that?
  • If so, then….
  • We are to make disciples
  • We are to invest in disciples from all nations
  • We are to baptize disciples
  • We are to teach disciples to obey all that Jesus commands – we are to teach what the Apostle Paul called “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)
  • We are to know and trust as disciples that Jesus Christ will be with us always, even to the end of the age.

Jesus didn’t simply come to preach to the masses. He did that. But He did more.

He invested in a small group of men – uneducated men, unlikely men. He led them. Lived with them. Walked with them. Taught them. Loved them. Corrected them. Encouraged them. Challenged them. He let them see Him up close and personal. He modeled a life of faith, hope, love and great power for them. He taught them to preach the Gospel and lead others into the Kingdom.

And then, Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make more disciples. And they obeyed Him. Yes, the preached to the masses. Yes, they taught the Word and healed the sick and comforted the suffering and cared for the poor and planted congregations and took the Gospel all over the Roman Empire, indeed, all over the world.

But they never got distracted by the central objective: Make Disciples.

As they shared the Gospel and people came to Christ, they invested in them.

One of those they invested in they nicknamed “Barnabus,” or Son of Encouragement.

Barnabus grew in the faith and found a young convert to invest in. His name was Saul. He became the Apostle Paul. Now there’s an investment that paid off huge.

The Apostle Paul took other young men under his wing and invested in them.

Consider just three:

  • Timothy
  • Titus
  • Luke

Talk about investments that paid enormous dividends – the letters written to or by these three men became part of the New Testament and have literally invested in billions of Christians!

But Paul wasn’t satisfied in simply investing in these disciples.

He commanded the men he was investing in to go invest in others, also.

  • “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
  • “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)

Epic Failure of Discipleship

The problem is far too few Christians are living like true and faithful disciples today.

Far too few Christians are making disciples today.

Many Christians have no idea what a disciple is, much less how to make one.

The painful fact is that the Church today is experiencing an epic failure of discipleship – and the costs of this failure are enormous.

Later in this conference, we’ll talk about these costs.

But the main one is this: Any Christian who doesn’t truly understand what it means to be a disciple or make a disciple is completely missing out on God’s plan and purpose for his life.

He is living a life of disobedience to his Master.

He – whether he realizes it or not – displeasing the heart of his Savior, and thus missing the enormous joy and power and the deep satisfaction that comes from living the invested life.

Two Simple Questions

Which brings me to my central point – not just of this session, but of the entire conference.

Every follower of Jesus Christ needs to be able to answer two simple questions:

  • First, “Who is investing in me?”
  • And second, “Whom am I investing in?”

Do you have an older, wiser man of God who has taken you under his wing and is teaching you to know Christ, share the Gospel, and make disciples?

Do you have a younger man into whose life you are pouring what God has given you – helping him know Christ, and share the Gospel, and make disciples?

Gentlemen, Christ doesn’t want us to simply spend our lives. He wants us to invest them.

What Is A Disciple?

Now, let’s define some terms.

The Oxford American Dictionary defines a disciple as: “A person who follows the teachings of another, whom he accepts as a leader.”

For a secular definition, that’s a pretty good start. But let’s go a little bit deeper.

The Greek noun disciple in the New Testament is mathetes.

According to Greek Bible scholar Spiros Zodhiates, editor of the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, mathetes “means more than mere pupil or learner. It means an adherer who accepts the instruction given to him and makes it his rule of conduct.”

In other words, a disciple isn’t someone simply jotting down notes on a Sunday morning in church, or in a Bible study. A disciple is a person who is intentionally, purposefully following the life and conduct of someone older and wiser in the faith. A disciple is a person learning by example.

Mathetes comes from the Greek verb matheteuo, which means to make a disciple or a follower of another’s doctrine, “to instruct with the purpose of making a disciple.”

Zodiates notes that: “matheteuo must be distinguished from the verb matheo, which is not found in the New Testament, and which simply means to learn without any attachment to the teacher who teaches. Matheteuo means not only to learn but to become attached to one’s teacher and to become his follower in doctrine and conduct of life.”

Okay, so a true disciple is learning to be a follower of someone’s life and doctrine.

He also has a personal attachment to his leader.

So discipleship is all about relationships.

In fact, it’s about three specific relationships.

  1. A true disciple actively seeks a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – that is, he has a sincere and growing commitment to know Christ, love Him, follow Him and obey His Word, no matter what the cost.
  1. A true disciple actively seeks a personal relationship with an older, wiser believer – that is, he has an “Apostle Paul” in his life to spiritually invest.
  1. A true disciple actively seeks a personal relationship with younger believers – that is, he has a “Timothy” into whose life he, too, can spiritually invest.

Now, let’s go deeper still.

Discipleship is about Christ-centered relationships that lead to Christ-like character and Christ-like  action.

That is, a true disciple is a man who is:

  1. Faithful in prayer and faithful to God’s Word
  2. Worshiping God in Spirit and in truth
  3. Compelled by love
  4. Actively sharing his faith and investing in younger believers.

Let’s unpack these a bit:

First and foremost, a true and faithful disciple is faithful and prayer and obeying God’s Word.

  • “With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)
  • “Now these [Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)
  • “But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:16)
  • “Faith, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:17)

Second, he is a true worshipper of God.

  • he absolutely adores his Savior and longs to praise Him and thank Him and glorify Him as often as possible, and he models this for others.
  • “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” (John 4:23)
  • “Be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
  • And as he abides in Christ, and walks in the power of the Holy Spirit, he is seeing the fruit of the Spirit develop in his life. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Third, he is compelled by love.

  • he’s not driven not by a love of self, or a love of accomplishment, or even a love of the Church or of the ministry.
  • Rather, he is driven by a Supreme Love for his Savior, and love for others.
  • “For the love of Christ compels us….” (2 Corinthians 5:14, NKJV)
  • “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

Fourth, he is actively sharing his faith and investing in younger believers.

  • Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”
  • Honestly, and I say this in love, but if you’re not fishing for men – actively sharing the Gospel – I don’t see how you’re following Jesus.
  • a true disciple is deeply serious about sharing the Gospel and leading people to Christ.
  • he’s also deeply serious about helping new believers and young believers grow to true spiritual maturity.
  • “….teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you….” (Matthew 28:20)
  • Teaching them how to study the Bible and pray
  • Teaching them how to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit
  • Teaching them to resist temptation
  • Teaching them to love their brothers, and neighbors, and enemies
  • Helping them become “spiritual parents”

Too many pastors and too many church staff see the goal of discipleship as helping a person grow to spiritual adulthood.

Born again –> baby –> adolescent –> mature adult

But this model is not biblical because it is not complete.

The goal is not simply to help believers grow to spiritual adulthood.

Rather, the goal is to help believers grow to spiritual parenthood.

From the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God commanded His people, “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28)

Likewise, the Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain” (John 15:16)

This is what is means to “bear fruit” – not simply the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) in which we become more like Christ, but the fruit of leading people into the Kingdom and helping them become more like Christ.

This is what truly pleases God’s heart and glorifies His name, when we bear fruit. As Jesus put it in John 15:8 – “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”

Conclusion

In the next session, we will define “disciple-maker” and look at how to make disciples.

But for now, let me close with the one of two questions we began with: Who is investing in you?

Do you have a “Paul” in your life?

If not, write down names of some older, wiser men who might be able to invest in you.

Start praying over those names.

Ask the Lord to give you someone to invest in you – and trust Him to provide.

“Ask, and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Let’s pray.

Message #2: How Do I Make Disciples (notes from the “Living The Invested Life” conference)

investedlife-smallNOTES FROM THE “LIVING THE INVESTED LIFE” CONFERENCE

How Do I Make Disciples?

Joel C. Rosenberg

Message #2

>> On Saturday, May 18th, I spoke at a men’s conference at McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia on discipleship. The theme of the conference was based on a book that I wrote with the pastor who discipled my wife and me in college, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of all Nations One Person at a Time. Here are the notes I used for my three talks as prepared for the delivery. Soon, I’ll post links to the videos of the messages and you can see precisely what a said.

——————————————–

In the first session, we began examining, “What is discipleship?”

In this session, we will consider, “How do I make disciples?”

Introduction

As we begin, we need to clarify what discipleship is not

  • Discipleship is not a program.
  • It’s not a class.
  • It’s not a spiritual gift that some people have and some do not.
  • It’s not something that some Christians do (i.e., the “professional” Christians), while others (“regular” Christians) are exempt.

Put simply: If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, your Commander-in-Chief has given you an order: “Go and make disciples.”

This means:

  • Any sincere believer can do it.
  • Every sincere believer should do it – including you and me.

The question, then, is, “How?”

This is why Dr. Koshy and I wrote The Invested Life:

  • to help every believer to be able to ask and answer two simple questions – “Who is investing in me?” and “Whom am I investing in?”
  • to help pastors and individuals discover the centrality of discipleship to God’s plan and purpose for your life and ministry
  • to show how Jesus is the ultimate model of disciple-making
  • to show how older, wiser men of God actually invested in our lives, and how we have invested in the lives of younger men
  • to help churches develop a “culture of discipleship.”

In a one day conference we can’t, of course, unpack everything in the Scriptures and everything in The Invested Life book.

Our objective today is far more modest – to give you sense of how important the Great Commission is to our Savior, and give you a sense of how the Great Commission can play out in the lives of real, ordinary men like you and me.

 

Jesus is the Model

At the end of the last session, I promised to define what a “disciple-maker” is. Let me be a man of my word.

The simplest way to put it is this: A “disciple-maker” is a man who helps a younger believer become a true and healthy and fruitful disciple.

“How?” you ask.

By following Jesus. Jesus is the model.

“Follow Me,” Jesus said, and He meant it – if we truly study His life, and pattern ours after His, and point the men we’re discipling towards Him, we cannot go wrong.

Let’s look at Mark 3:13-15 — “And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him, and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out demons.”

Why did Jesus choose the twelve? The text gives us three reasons:

  • To be with Him
  • To preach the Gospel
  • To have authority in spiritual warfare

This is a very simple way to explain our mission as disciple-makers.

  • We’re helping people walk closely with Christ.
  • We’re helping people share the Gospel, lead people to Christ, and become spiritual reproducers
  • And we’re helping people battle spiritual warfare and temptation to stay on track with Christ and liberate lost people from the enemy.

That’s one simple way to explain our mission.

Here’s another – the Great Commandments and the Great Commission.

  • We’re helping people love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
  • We’re helping people to love their neighbors as themselves.
  • And we’re helping people love God and people enough to share the Gospel, lead people to Christ, and make disciples.

Some of My Story

Okay, let me share some of my story of trying to make disciples in the Washington, D.C. area:

[share anecdotes…..

  • Seven years of marriage and ministry – feel unsettled and dissatisfied
  • A pastor (Ron) who encouraged me to start making disciples.
  • Went back to S.U. to visit the Koshys and the DeColas (Campus Crusade for Christ staff members who had also invested in us).
  • “Are you making disciples?” they asked.
  • The honest answer was, “no, we’re not.”
  • Dr. Koshy suggested, “Go back and each of you pray for the Lord to give you each one person to disciple.”
  • He reminded us of something he used to say all the time, “Our God is a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God, a wonder-working God”
  • Our lives were extremely busy – I was senior advisor on a presidential campaign and Lynn was immersed in raising our two sons – but in faith we tried to obey.

Answers to our prayers: 

  • “John Black John Black”
  • Susan

More answers to prayer:

  • Kailea
  • Edward – never pictured him becoming a pastor, but God did something extraordinary in him
  • two discipleship groups 

But in time we realized that we weren’t teaching them to share their faith 

  • So we led a Global Impact trip to reach Muslims with the Gospel
  • Terrifying for all of us to be sharing the Gospel on the streets of Europe – but it was life-changing for all of us, too.
  • Eventually invited another married couple to help us lead future trips
  • Then they began making disciples

Great joy 

  • As much as we invested in these young adults, they invested so much in us as well
  • Became cherished members of our family
  • Became dear and life-long friends
  • Such a joy to see them grow in the faith and spiritually reproduce

 Casualties:

  • We saw success – but we also saw failures
  • Not everyone we invested in continued walking with Jesus and becoming spiritual parents
  • Even Jesus had a Judas
  • We are working with men, not machines
  • I made mistakes – there are things I would go back and change if I could.
  • But in the end, these are not “my disciples” – they are Jesus’ disciples
  • And He is gracious with them, and with us]

Some Lessons I’ve Learned

Along the way, I’ve learned a number of lessons about making disciples.

Here are five:

  1. Integrate your marriage, family and ministry.
  2. Listen and pray.
  3. Create a warm, safe place.
  4. Focus on the Great Commandments.
  5. Focus on the Great Commission.

Let me briefly explain.

Integrate your family and ministry.

  • If you’re married, serve with your spouse as much as possible.
  • If you have kids, disciple them, and include them in disciple-making.
  • Eat meals as a family with the people you’re investing in.
  • Go on missions trips as a family.
  • Don’t let the invested life divide and conquer you.

Listen and pray.

  • People need someone to listen to their troubles and pray with and for them.
  • Don’t just try to teach them or “get through” some curriculum.
  • Don’t be goal-oriented – be people-oriented.
  • Listen to them.
  • Love them.
  • And keep loving them even when you discover how troubled and broken they really are.

Create a warm, safe place.

  • Invite people to your home for discipleship – not to the church or a coffee shop or restaurant.
  • Practice Biblical hospitality.
  • Cook them a special meal – don’t just serve order pizza.

Focus on the Great Commandments.

  • Build a team that truly loves each other.
  • Remember what Jesus said: they will know we are His disciples by our love.

Focus on the Great Commission.

  • Don’t build a social club.
  • Build a team committed to changing the world.
  • Teach them to preach the Gospel.
  • Teach them to teach the Word.
  • Take them on mission trips.
  • Encourage them to lead people to Christ and start making disciples.
  • Then set them loose!

Conclusion

In the next session, we will look at the cost of discipleship.

But for now, let me close with the second of the two questions we began with:

  • Whom are you investing in?

Do you have a “Timothy” in your life?

If not, write down some names of some young men that God may be prompting you to invest in.

Start praying over those names.

Ask the Lord to give you someone to invest in – and trust Him to provide.

“Ask, and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Let’s pray.

Message #3: What Is The Cost of Discipleship? (Notes from the “Living The Invested Life Conference)

investedlife-smallNOTES FROM THE “LIVING THE INVESTED LIFE” CONFERENCE:

What Is The Cost of Discipleship?

Joel C. Rosenberg

Message #3

>> On Saturday, May 18th, I spoke at a men’s conference at McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia on discipleship. The theme of the conference was based on a book that I wrote with the pastor who discipled my wife and me in college, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of all Nations One Person at a Time. Here are the notes I used for my three talks as prepared for the delivery. Soon, I’ll post links to the videos of the messages and you can see precisely what a said.

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In the first session, we examined, “What is discipleship?”

In the second session, we considered, “How do I make disciples?”

In this last session, let us consider, “What is the cost of discipleship?”

Then, as we come to a close, we’re going to have a time of prayer, a time of worship, and we’re going to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

 

Introduction

The Scriptures clearly teach that eternal salvation is the free gift of God — “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

You can’t earn it. You can’t buy it. You don’t deserve it. God gives it to you for free because of the enormous price His Son paid on the cross.

That said, becoming a true and faithful disciple is not free. Nor is the decision not to make disciples.

Both are immensely costly.

 

The Cost of Becoming A True Disciple

When it came to talking about the cost of becoming a true and faithful disciple, Jesus did not mince words.

  • “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
  • “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)

What did Jesus mean?

What is holding you back from giving all of yourself to Jesus?

What else did Jesus say?

  • “So, then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” (Luke 14:33)

What did Jesus mean?

What is holding you back from giving all of your earthly possessions to Jesus?

What else did Jesus say?

  • “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
  • “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)
  • “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household….Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:24-26, 28)
  • “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

What did Jesus mean?

Are you fearful of ridicule, rejection, persecution and/or death?

Is this what’s holding you back from being discipled? Is this what’s holding you back from making disciples?

What about the “great reward” our Savior promises to those who love Him enough to obey Him, not matter what the cost?

 

The Cost of Not Making Disciples

Yes, there is a cost to becoming a true and faithful disciple.

But there is also a cost in not becoming a true disciple – and cost in not making disciples.

First, let’s consider the big picture – then we’ll get more personal.

In the big picture, I see a real tragedy unfolding around the world, but especially in the American Church.

Many Christians seem to believe that “busyness is next to godliness.” They behave as if moving fast, thinking big, and focusing on the many is a more valuable approach to life than slowing down, thinking small, and faithfully investing in a few.

As a result, many Christians – including church leaders – are living lives of speed, exhaustion, and emptiness, not lives of quietness, contentment, joy, and lasting fruit.

They are not slowing down and going deeper in their faith. Nor are they slowing down and helping others go deeper in the faith.

They’re not really becoming more like Jesus. They’re not seeing the fruit of the Spirit develop in their lives. Nor are they helping others discover the joy of becoming more like Jesus. And because the faith of many “believers” is no more than skin deep, their lives are fruitless and defeated.

How much different is the typical American Christian from the typical American unsaved person?

Generally speaking, are American Christian really winning great victories over pornography, sexual promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, divorce, drug and alcohol addiction, dysfunctionality, and depression?

And I’m not talking about politics – I talking about winning victory over sin and temptation in our own personal lives.

Are American Christians significantly godlier and healthier from the society at large, a society that is increasing risk of moral, spiritual and fiscal implosion?

The apostle Paul warned us in 2 Timothy 3:5 (niv) of those “having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

Yet, sadly, we see evidence of this within the church the world over.

This is the cost of not making disciples.

This is the cost of little churches when they operate like little neighborhood social clubs, not as warm and welcoming light houses trying to rescue desperate people lost in the darkness and helping them become new creations in Christ.

This is the cost of big churches when they move too fast, think too big, and cut too many corners on the things that matter most; when they operate as big institutions, rather than as warm and welcoming light houses trying to rescue desperate people lost in the darkness and helping them become new creations in Christ.

Please hear my heart:

I’m not against small churches – I grew up in one; Koshy led one – but I don’t believe smaller churches are better because they are smaller.

I’m not against big churches – I’ve been a member of one for 22 years – but I don’t believe big is necessarily better. 

  • The first Church in Jerusalem was healthy and pleasing Christ on the day before Pentecost when it was small, just 120 people.
  • It was healthy and pleasing Christ on Pentecost when 3,000 people suddenly received Christ and needed to be baptized and disciple.
  • It was healthy years later when James told Paul that more than 20,000 people had come to faith and been baptized and were being discipled. 

Why was the Church healthy in each of these different sizes? Because its leaders and its member had a Supreme Love for Christ.

Several years ago, I had the joy of preaching throughout India with Dr. Koshy. One day we spoke at a church in Chennai that I believe was the first congregation God used Brother Bakht Singh to plant. There were 4,000 people there. The service lasted nine hours. No air conditioning. No chairs (except for the most elderly). No cafeteria. There were four sermons. I preached two. With two translators. People worshipped on their knees. Every person had their Bible with them. Nine hours. They were hungry to know Christ. They were hungry to be found faithful disciples. Should the pastor have been criticized because there were too many disciples there? Of course not. 

The issue isn’t size – the issue is heart.

  • the condition of the pastor’s heart
  • the condition of the congregation’s heart
  • the faithfulness of the people to love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbors as themselves
  • the faithfulness of the people to the heart of the Great Commission
  • the faithfulness of the leaders to following the model of the early church

Now, let’s take a moment to talk about the personal cost of not making disciples.

  • We miss opportunity to experience the joy of Jesus Christ because we’re disobeying the Great Commission
  • We miss the opportunity to make life-long friendships with those we’re investing in
  • We miss the joy of seeing younger believers grow and mature and bear fruit in Christ Jesus
  • We miss understanding a deep and powerful level what the Body of Christ – the Church — is really supposed to be

As we close, let’s turn to Acts chapter two.

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  (Acts 2:42-47)

What a beautiful picture of the early Church!

Those first disciples in Jerusalem were gathered together:

  • to study the Apostle’s teaching/doctrine – and apply it to their lives
  • to have deep and rich fellowship – to encourage one other to grow strong in the faith and share their faith with others
  • to break bread together – that is, to partake of the Lord’s Supper and worship Christ for His sacrificial death on the cross
  • And to pray – for each other, for their leaders, for the lost, for the people they were sharing the Gospel with, for the people they were discipling

They were full of the Holy Spirit and full of joy.

They were expectant to see God move in great power, and unashamed of the Gospel of His grace. 

They were living the abundant life, and they were experiencing the invested life.

They were seeing the fruit of the Spirit grow in their own lives, and they were seeing people come to Christ day by day.

The Church was growing – in depth and in numbers.

This is a true culture of discipleship.

This is the standard.

This is what Christ tells us to aim for – and the good news is that by God’s grace it is reachable. So let’s reach it.

 

Conclusion

Gentlemen, I realize there is so much more to be said.

But I hope you found today helpful in beginning to discover what it means to live the invested life.

I hope the book is helpful – it just one of many resources, but my prayer is that you find it a useful guide in unpacking what the Scriptures have to say about being a disciple and making disciples.

Let us close now where we began – with two simple questions:

  • Who is investing in you?
  • Whom are you investing in?

Sadly, most Christians have no answers. Indeed, most Christians have never asked these questions of themselves or others.

The Church today is currently experiencing an epic failure of discipleship – and this is why so many people who say they are following Christ are so weak, so unfruitful, and so discouraged in their faith.

But that doesn’t have to be you. Maybe it is today, but the good news is that God wants to invest more in you, and help you invest in others, if only you are willing.

Jesus Christ is looking for a few good men to surrender all and follow Him.

Are you in?

Putin, Netanyahu meet in Russia to discuss Iran & Syria threats

Putin and Netanyahu (file photo)

Putin and Netanyahu (file photo)

>> UPDATE ON NETANYAHU’S EMERGENCY TRIP TO RUSSIA:

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Sochi, Russia on Tuesday and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Haaretz reports. “Netanyahu said ahead of the meeting with Putin that the Middle East is unstable and volatile and therefore he is interested in discussing with Putin ways to ‘make it more secure and stable.'”

“According to Israeli officials, Netanyahu will ask the Russian president not to supply advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria,” the Israeli newspaper reports. “Netanyahu, who was invited to Russia on March 20, is also expected to discuss both the Syrian civil war and the Iranian nuclear program with Putin. Last Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow had no new plans to sell an advanced air defense system to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but left open the possibility that it could ship such systems to Damascus under an existing contract.”

More excerpts from the article:

  • The Wall Street Journal has reported that Israel told the United States about an imminent Russian deal to sell S-300 missile systems that would significantly boost Syria’s ability to stave off intervention in the civil war.
  • Senior Israeli officials said Netanyahu had brought up the missile issue in a telephone conversation with Putin, and in another conversation that happened Wednesday with U.S. President Barack Obama.
  • The Journal said the deal had been signed in 2010 and would be carried out in the next three months.
  • Syria had already made the first payment of the $900 million deal to Russia and would receive six launchers and around 144 missiles, it said.
  • “Russia is not planning to sell,” Lavrov said when asked about the reports during a visit to Warsaw. “Russia already sold them a long time ago. It has signed the contracts and is completing deliveries, in line with the agreed contracts, of equipment which is anti-aircraft technology.”

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Why Netanyahu ordered more air strikes in Syria: Analysis

Around 2:00am Sunday morning local time, Israeli fighter planes conducted another round of air strikes against Syrian targets. This was the second round of Israeli preemptive strikes in the last 48 to 72 hours.

The targets were in and near the capital city of Damascus, and early reports indicate they included storehouses for advanced missiles that the Assad regime was preparing to transfer to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

Big questions:

  • Are more Israeli air strikes coming?
  • Will the Assad regime — or Hezbollah, or Iran — retaliate? Syrian officials are already calling Israel’s actions a “declaration of war.”
  • Will this trigger a new regional war, or help prevent one by sending a clear message to Israel’s enemies not to cross certain red lines?
  • How will the Obama administration and other world governments respond?

One thing is clear: Netanyahu is not waiting any longer for Obama to act. Israel is taking the lead in protecting its own national security.

Israeli officials see Syria imploding, and Iran, Hezbollah and other terror forces moving into the vacuum. They see Syria having used chemical weapons twice. Yet neither President Obama nor other world powers are doing anything about it. Israel has decided it cannot wait any longer for Washington.

Latest Headlines:

You’re invited to the “Living The Invested Life” conference on discipleship on May 18th.

conf-investedlifeOn Saturday, May 18th, I’m honored to be the keynote speaker at a special one-day men’s conference in the Washington, D.C. area — “Living The Invested Life: A Call To Discipleship.” 

You are invited and most welcome, and I sincerely hope you will join us to discuss a critically important topic in the life and the health of the Church.

We don’t want to spend our lives. We want to invest them. We want to make an impact. We want God to use us to help change people’s lives for Christ. After all, in a passage in Matthew 28 known as the “Great Commission,” Jesus Christ commanded His followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Yet we are experiencing an epic failure of discipleship in America and around the world. Most Christians don’t know what discipleship means or how to make a disciple. Indeed, most church congregations are not involved in training staff or lay people to make disciples along the model of Jesus and the Apostle Paul, much less encouraging them to spiritually reproduce. Yet one day each pastor, each elder, and each believer will stand before Jesus and give an account. Do we really want not only to fail our Savior, but not even have tried to obey the Great Commission?

Now is a good time to shift gears, learn what we’re doing wrong, and start doing it right. Didn’t Jesus say, “If you love Me, you will obey My commands”?

During this conference, I will give talks on three key areas:

  1. What is discipleship?
  2. How to make disciples?
  3. What is the cost of discipleship?

I’ll teach from God’s Word and share practical, personal stories from my own life.

There will also be a number of breakout sessions in the early afternoon with other speakers — men who have been discipled, and who have made disciples — covering these vital topics:

  1. Making disciples at home
  2. Making disciples at work
  3. Making disciples in your community
  4. Making disciples as a teenager

The event will not be webcast, so you need to register and attend in person.

This is the first conference of its kind that I have done since The Invested Life book that I wrote with Dr. T.E. Koshy released last fall. The venue is the annual men’s conference of McLean Bible Church (MBC) in northern Virginia. So yes, this conference is only for men. But it is in no way limited to men who attend MBC. It will only be limited by space, so please register immediately — May 18th is coming up fast.

God bless you, brothers — I look forward to seeing you soon!

>> Watch a brief video about the “Living The Invested Life” conference

Analysis: Israeli warplanes attack shipment of Iranian missiles in Syria even as whispers in Washington suggest Israel may wait to hit Iran until after June elections.

israeliF15EagleWhispers in the Pentagon and elsewhere in official Washington seem to indicate the Israelis may wait to launch massive airstrikes against Iranian nuclear sites until at least after the elections this summer in Iran.

But in the last 48 hours, Israel launched surprise airstrikes in Syria territory. The targets: shipments of Iranian missiles moving through Syria and bound for the Hezbollah terror forces in Lebanon.

The message to the mullahs in Iran: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu isn’t hesitant to use force when he needs to.

“It was the second time in four months that Israel had carried out an attack in foreign territory,” noted the New York Times in its coverage.

As I’ve reported before, the Obama administration has long been pressuring Israel not to attack Iran. The latest reason: maybe the upcoming elections will lead to a change of policy in Iran. The first round of presidential and municipal elections will be held June 14th. If no presidential candidate receives a majority of the (rigged) vote (which often happens), the runoff would occur on June 21st.

The Israelis aren’t holding their breath. They don’t expect change amidst a rigged, corrupt so-called “democratic process” in which the Ayatollah Khamenei will quietly choose his favorite and make sure the ballot boxes are adequately stuffed for his man. Still, generally speaking, Netanyahu wants to go the extra mile in his relationship with President Obama and not precipitate an attack unless and until he can truly say he has exhausted all less dangerous options.

Thus, if the rumors in Washington are true (and not disinformation designed to mask a sooner attack), it would suggest before the Israelis start a new regional war they want to assess — and be seen assessing — whether Iran’s new government will maintain its hardline pursuit of nuclear weapons, or whether it would be willing to negotiate and give up the country’s atomic ambitions.

But even while being as patient as possible, Netanyahu cannot ignore Iranian efforts to beef up the missile forces of Hezbollah, the implosion inside Syria, the danger of Syria WMD being used or being transferred to jihadists, and the steady Iranian march towards The Bomb. The airstrikes in the last 48 hours help him send a message that his patience is running out, and that the Israelis have very precise intelligence on what Iran and its allies are up to.

>> Close confidante of Netanyahu warns “it’s now or never” for military strike on Iran: Analysis.

Here’s the latest coverage from the New York Times.

“The airstrike that Israeli warplanes carried out in Syria was directed at a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Iran that Israel believed was intended for Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese organization, American officials said Saturday,” reports the Times. “It was the second time in four months that Israel had carried out an attack in foreign territory intended to disrupt the pipeline of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah, and the raid was a vivid example of how regional adversaries are looking after their own interests as Syria becomes more chaotic.”

“Iran and Hezbollah have both backed President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, now in its third year,” noted the Times. “But as fighting in Syria escalates, they also have a powerful stake in expediting the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in case Mr. Assad loses his grip on power. Israel, for its part, has repeatedly cautioned that it will not allow Hezbollah to receive game changing’ weapons that could threaten the Israeli heartland after a post-Assad government took power. And as Washington considers how to handle evidence of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, a development it has described as a ‘red line,’ Israel is clearly showing that it will stand behind the red lines it sets.

“The Israelis are saying, ‘O.K., whichever way the civil war is going, we are going to keep our red lines, which are different from Obama’s,’” said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“The missiles that were the target of the raid had been sent to Syria by Iran and were being stored in a warehouse at Damascus International Airport when they were struck, according to an American official,” the Times reported. “Two prominent Israeli defense analysts said military officials had told them that the targeted shipment included Scud Ds, which Syrians have developed from Russian weapons and have a range up to 422 miles — long enough to reach Eilat, in southernmost Israel, from Lebanon. But an American official, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing intelligence reports, said they were Fateh-110s. The Fateh-110 is a mobile, accurate, solid-fueled missile that represents a considerable improvement over the liquid-fueled Scud missile. American officials have said it has the range to strike Tel Aviv and much of Israel from southern Lebanon.”

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