The Timothy Network Blog

Steve Gardner: The Kingdom of God

Steve

I met Steve Gardner when he was a student at Middle Tennessee State University during the early 1990′s. Even as an eighteen year old college freshman he had a strong desire to know the Lord in a deeper way.  Steve and I have reconnected in recent years, and the hunger that I first saw in him long ago has resulted in God filling him with more.  Steve is a mature disciple with a knack for teaching, and and he’s now discipling others in conjunction with our work.  Pictured above (left, bottom), he’s working with John Ingram and Jonathan Sullivan every Thursday during a lunch meeting at the Smyrna IHOP.  Their current study and discussion topic is “The Kingdom of God,” one of Steve’s favorite subjects.  He presented the following reflections at a recent weekly discipling session, and I’m pleased to also share his thoughts with you in this e-letter.       – Mike Stroud

“The kingdom of God” was the very topic that Jesus taught as he went from town to town (Matthew 4:17, Luke 8:1, etc.). The parables that Jesus shared often began with “The kingdom of heaven is like…” When He sent His disciples out, he gave them their sermon: “The kingdom of heaven is near” (Luke 10:9). After His resurrection, He taught them about the kingdom (Acts 1:3). Despite Jesus’ emphasis on the kingdom, I don’t recall a single message specifically about the kingdom of God in all of my growing up even though I went to church gatherings at least 3 times a week.
A couple times lately, I have asked Christians, “What does the kingdom of God look like?” In response, I have seen looks on my friends’ faces that say “I probably should know the answer to this, but I’m not sure what to say.” My intent has never been to embarrass anyone, but I have ribbed a few people by saying “No big deal…it’s only the thing Jesus said to seek first.” (Matthew 6:33).
So, why was it that Jesus was so excited to talk about and demonstrate the kingdom of God? This couldn’t have been some theological snorefest. This is a message (good news) that found people in their brokenness and gave them hope for something amazing that struck a chord deep in their spirits. So, what did that look like? Part of the answer is that Jesus was so excited about the King, the Father that everyone longs for. He was so excited to tell the world that his Father would watch every day for a lost child to return home. And when the lost one returns home, the Father will restore His child to every privilege that comes with being a child of God. So, one focus of teaching about the kingdom is to talk about the wonderful King. Next, Jesus traveled from town to town and He interacted with the sick, the broken-hearted, the poor, and the hopeless. He was so excited to reveal that there is no sickness in heaven…so “be healed”. He was excited to say “Blessed are the broken-hearted because the kingdom of heaven is for you” (Matthew 5:3). And no one is poor in heaven…there is unending abundance. There is no such thing as hopelessness in the kingdom of heaven…everyone has full anticipation that they will experience God’s goodness. To victims of abuse or oppression, He might say “I’m so sorry that this happened to you…it was so wrong. There is no injustice in my Father’s kingdom. No one abuses their power or takes advantage of others. Would you like for My Father to heal all your physical and spiritual wounds?” Other times, He would show that there is no death in heaven when He would say “Arise!” So, simply put, when Jesus taught the kingdom, this was his excitement to share about his wonderful Father, and his excitement to share about the wonderful atmosphere that exists when his Father’s heart and ways are manifested; even on the earth. He showed them the kingdom that every heart longs for.
The kingdom of God concept is seen as early as Genesis 1:26-28. God makes man in His own image and then gives man authority and a mission to fill and subdue the earth. So, man’s assignment was to extend the King’s reign throughout the earth. The mission hasn’t really changed. In Matthew 28 Jesus says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” If you make disciples of all the nations, you have filled and subdued the earth. This is such a big deal to God! Here’s why: If His kingdom is not reigning, then an illegitimate kingdom is reigning. An illegitimate kingdom is not out for the good of those made in God’s image. An illegitimate kingdom will steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). An illegitimate kingdom brings oppression, addiction, poverty, abuse, greed, sickness, and death. God is often blamed for death or sickness or for letting bad things happen. But those are the effects of an illegitimate kingdom. God never wanted those things, and those things do not belong to the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom brings life and light. When God reigns, love reigns; peace reigns; truth reigns; people act unselfishly and honor each other. Jesus spent all His time teaching and showing the kingdom of God. This same kingdom advance is still forcefully active against the powers of darkness, and it is God’s Spirit moving within and through His people, the church. The mystery of God’s will is Christ reigning over all things in heaven and on earth (Ephesians 1:8-10). That’s when everything is set right. God is using the church to reveal His wisdom to the leaders of the illegitimate kingdom (Ephesians 3:10-11). The struggle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). The struggle is against the illegitimate kingdom. When God’s kingdom does not reign, (very literally) all hell breaks loose. God’s kingdom is the kingdom that every person truly longs for. He is the King that everyone wants in the depths of their spirit. Who wouldn’t want a King that would lay down His life for His people; a King who sees His people as His own dear children? He is the King that is making all things new (Revelation 21:5). God’s Spirit wants to use you to bring the kingdom of God to earth. We are Christ’s ambassadors as though God is making His appeal through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). In an act of worship to this King, offer yourselves as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Then, when you pray for someone who is sick, you are advancing the kingdom of God. When you are generous, when you encourage, when you share God’s goodness, the kingdom of God is advancing. Be a part of the kingdom agenda to make earth like heaven. So we echo Jesus’ prayer, “May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10).
The people of God certainly have an eternal destiny in a place that is prepared for us (John 14:2-3). We absolutely look forward to heaven! The reason heaven is so wonderful and so perfect is because heaven is a place where God’s kingdom reigns fully. Jesus wanted us to know that there is an amazing plan for eternity. However, Jesus never said to just struggle through your life in the fallen world and I’ll eventually come and rescue you into heaven. What He modeled and what He taught was to bring heaven to earth. Here’s some more good news: The same powerful Spirit that filled Jesus and raised Jesus Christ from the dead is living in us (Romans 8:11). The Holy Spirit can empower us to bring the kingdom to earth. So, the very open-ended challenge to God’s people is this: How much heaven can we bring to earth?

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The Biggest Mistake in Disciple Making by Caesar Kalinkowski

What if someone suggested you go out and start building nice furniture without first equipping you to be a furniture maker? And what if the person suggesting you do this had never been trained either? Someone told them they ought to be furniture makers so they just started sawing and hammering with no real idea of how to proceed? If that sounds out of kilter then please give four minutes to CHECK OUT THE LINK BELOW for very practical point about disciple making by Caesar Kalinowski. Check out the “The Verge Network” for more great insights on investing your life in others for the Kingdom of God.
New discipling circles for 2016 are currently forming. If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a discipling relationship or are interested in learning more about making disciples of Jesus Christ, please give us a call.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Os1Ifc4Ktc

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THIS!

This

Insights from the Verge Network that will help you make disciples of Jesus

Mike Breen

“Listen and put into practice!”

Breen*

Jo Saxon

Jo Saxton

“Information is not enough!”

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Fall Benefit 2015: Disciples-N-Apprenticeship

Fall Benefit 2015 Walkers

Timothy Network’s tenth anniversary dinner was held last week at Lane Agri-Park in Murfreesboro. It was a big encouragement to have many of you join us in celebrating a decade of disciple making.
The theme for this year’s Benefit was “Disciples-N-Apprenticeship,” a message meant to convey that focused and intentional disciple making is the core mission and substance, the very “DNA” if you will, of The Timothy Network. Proceeds totaling just over $25,000 were given toward launching our work into 2016. Thanks for the tremendous generosity!
A link to our latest media feature is shown bekiw. The new video gives a window into what makes Timothy Network “tick.” It’s only a few minutes in length, so please have a look. Click on the link to view the video.

Whether you sponsor our work, serve as a prayer partner, are involved in the actual process of disciple making, or all three, here’s to your help!

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Learn to See Yourself as God Sees You by John Gardner

John and Slim

It’s been said that all Christians need a guide in front of them…a mentor like Paul; someone beside them…an encourager like Barnabas; and someone following them…a person they are discipling – a Timothy. John Gardner is a “Paul,” a spiritual father in my life. He pours into me each week, in turn helping me pour into others. John knows how important it is for disciples of Jesus to grasp their ownsecure position in Christ, and he is passionate about spreading this message as he goes about discipling others. He has served as an elder with the Stones River church and is a former member of Timothy Network’s Board of Accountability. John worked for thirty-two years with the Xerox Corporation. He now spends time helping people copy the lifestyle of Jesus. He and his wife, Leaquieta, recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. MLS

John Gardner

To the saints who are a part of the Timothy Network around the world; grace, mercy, and peace to you in abundance from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In his last article, Mike wrote about those of us who are in Christ having a new identity. That is a really strong (core) teaching! You have most likely heard Proverbs 23:7 many times. It says: “As (a man) thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (KJV) That being the case, how can we be effective in the Kingdom of God if we do not think like God thinks in regard to our identity? How we identify ourselves really matters in the Kingdom of God and has serious implications for us and the world where we live.

You have heard the saying, “I am a sinner saved by grace.” I know the heart of that saying, and I am not judging anyone who would use it. But it’s important to consider: Do I still identify myself as a sinner? Do sinners please God? Did Paul waste his time writing to the “saints”? Did Jesus give His life so that we would just remain lowly sinners? Does God call me a sinner?

God’s Word calls me a “saint” and an “overcomer”, and He says I am “more than a conqueror” (Romans 8). He says that I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be “holy and blameless” in His sight (Ephesians 1). Those terms (underlined) don’t sound like the description of a sinner! Are sinners capable of ministering to God or mankind? No! It’s a good thing that Jesus made us a “kingdom” and “priests” (Rev. 1:5b-6) that are very effective in ministry.

Next, who has more faith when they pray…a sinner or a child of God? Galatians 3:26 says: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” A sinner will take whatever crumbs he can get, but the child of a good Father anticipates more than he can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), because our Father is always good! And a sinner has no choice but to agree and carry their shame and regret when Satan, the accuser, reminds them of their ugly past. But saints and priests know too much about the effectiveness of the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 12:10-11) They know what heaven says: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)

Saints say what heaven says: “I have a new life as a child of God.” The Apostle Paul reminds us: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a ‘new creature’; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17, KJV) My past doesn’t define or give me my identity. That honor is my Father’s alone! I am who God says I am!

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) According to this verse, my mind needs to be aligned with how God thinks. We are “citizens of heaven” (Philipians 3:20) and these citizens should think like heaven thinks.

If this article strikes a chord in your spirit, I suggest looking into the Greek word “metanoia” which is typically translated as “repentance”. Metanoia more literally means to change your mind. Change your mind (Metanoeó), for the kingdom of heaven is here.” Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministry with this command (See Matthew 3 & 4). This includes repenting of sin, but it is bigger than that. Sin is a symptom of how a man thinks. In fact, the root cause of sin is the way a man thinketh.

Father, help us to only think as heaven thinks. If any area of our thinking needs to change, help us to eagerly “repent” and live life to the full.
____________________
John and his son, Steven, recently visited a discipiing circle in Shelbyville and shared the above teaching.

Shelbyville June2016

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Living According to Our Saved Identity in Christ

Identity in Christ

The Timothy Network is a grassroots outreach effort existing to make disciples, equip disciple makers, and to encourage intentional discipleship. We work with ordinary people from different walks of life. Many are church-going men and women who either, 1) readily admit they are going through the motions, or 2) who are trying to be disciples of Jesus but express serious misgivings about their relationship with God. Because active and confident faith are crucial elements in being an effective disciple, I’ll use this month’s E-letter to flesh out the two categories described here. I hope it helps in doing inventory of your own relationship with God.

_______________________

Which do you find more difficult?

1) Believing that a Jewish construction worker named Jesus was and is the one and only Son of God; that he healed the sick and gave sight to the blind; that he cast out demons; that he raised the dead and was himself raised from the dead; and that he ascended back to Heaven where he now resides at the right hand of God?

2) Or, is it a greater challenge to apply the call of Christ in your everyday life? After all, Jesus did say, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

First, many who identify themselves as “Christian” find it easier to believe in the facts about Jesus than to authentically die to self and follow him every day. Those falling into this camp might be regular church attenders who staunchly feel their particular faith family represents the one truth church. Discipleship is neither a part of their vocabulary nor lifestyle, however. The Bible, of course, addresses the “belief alone” mindset saying, “Even demons believe – and they shudder!” (James 2:19)

Acknowledging Jesus’ deity alone is not enough. Neither is merely warming a church pew three times each week. Genuine belief and faithful discipleship (obedience) can’t be separated. They go hand-in-hand, one implying the other. True belief fueled by the grace of God produces a fruitful lifestyle in Christ. We act on and intentionally live out what we really believe.

Even though belief alone is a dangerous dead end, a second category includes believers who struggle with a spiritual identity crisis which seriously hampers their usefulness. They sincerely believe in Jesus and earnestly try to be obedient. They constantly struggle with fear and anxiety over whether or not they remain in a secure position with God, however. They doubt that they’re “good to go.”

The sad thing is that failure to grasp and live according to our identity as born-again children of God renders our walk with Jesus without power, salt, or light. In short, our lives fail to demonstrate our new identity in Christ because we’re not confident from one day to the next that we’re truly saved. Rather than serving peacefully in our secure position in Christ, we instead struggle with guilt and spend a lot of effort trying to “manage our sin.” No, salvation doesn’t give us a license to sin; the apostle Paul made this clear. (Romans 6:1) However, our new position in Christ should free us from the “sin-identity.”

Confidently knowing who we are in Christ empowers us to live as triumphant children of the King of the universe! Uncertainty produces a powerless and opposite lifestyle. Paul reminded believers in Rome that the old man is “DEAD”! (Romans 6:2). He encouraged them to leave the dead man in the grave and live out their true identity as new creatures in Christ.

Those in Christ no longer live under condemnation! (Romans 8:1) That’s the good news! We all fall down at times, but “fallen” is no longer who or what we are! Being freed from sin by placing our faith in the finished work of Christ sets us free to live a life of joyful obedience. The grace of God is the great healer and motivator!

As my friend John likes to remind me, “Live out of the confidence that your life is ‘hidden with Christ in God,’ and remember that ‘He IS our righteousness.’” (Col. 3:3; Rom. 1:17; I Cor. 1:30; II Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:20) That’s victorious discipleship!

Remember whose you are and live like it!

Mike

* Much credit and gratitude to my friend and spiritual mentor, John Gardner, with whom I sit and learn of the empowering grace of Jesus every Thursday morning. And to my discipler and friend, Bob Mize, who first helped me understand the believer’s security in Christ three decades ago. Although half the country away, I still talk with him every week.

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Steady, Focused, and Intentional: Quarterly Update

070

The first three months of 2015 have seen encouraging new developments for The Timothy Network. In addition to ongoing disciple making efforts in Rutherford county, our work is now spreading into neighboring cities and towns. Three new discipling circles are pictured above.

Before going further, let me set the stage with ideas that form our daily mantra and keep us moving forward.

•Disciple making is not “rocket science.” It’s not always easy, it can be very messy, and it will likely bring inconvenience, but making disciples is a glorious and joy filled adventure like none other! It is the work of God.

•The more we pay attention to the way Jesus interacted with people in scripture, the more we’ll understand how disciple making should fit the natural rhythms of our daily lives. Wherever he traveled and as he went, Jesus looked for hungry hearts and thirsty souls. He made disciples in a highly focused, intentional, and very relational manner. He engaged people in life-changing conversations that introduced them to the Kingdom of God. Reaching people wasn’t a “backpack” Jesus wore, nor was it a separate compartment of his life. The redemption of souls is what he constantly lived and breathed. As his children, dare we seek to do less?

•No matter how inadequate we might seem in our own eyes, or in the opinion of others for that matter, God will provide the increase when we faithfully sow seed! Ours is to faithfully sow, water, and nurture. The Spirit of God grows the seed.

•To make disciples, you first have to be a committed Christ-follower. You can’t pass on what you don’t have. Devoted following comes before fishing.

As friends, prayer partners, and people who support Timothy Network with your financial gifts, we want you to know what “makes us tick” and propels us forward on a daily basis. The four maxims stated above are among the core principles that motivate us and define what we strive to accomplish.

From day one, we’ve preached and practiced the “do-ability” and reproducing capacity of relational disciple making. We operate by the premise that no matter what a person’s particular spiritual gifts, they can be equipped to purposefully invest in lives and bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.

Progress in the first quarter of 2015: Since January new discipling relationships have birthed in Murfreesboro (like the group pictured above led by Pat Whitaker), and four new discipling circles have formed outside Rutherford county: one in Nashville, two in Shelbyville, and one in Woodbury. Seeing the expansion of discipling networks into surrounding cities and towns brings the realization of a long-held goal. Steve Henegar, a local member of The Timothy Network, is co-leading a new circle in Woodbury, and Mary Gordon is helping launch a women’s discipling effort in Shelbyville / Bedford County. I’ve also started working with three men in Shelbyville and two others in Nashville. In time, we hope to see men and women in these new locations making disciples who will also make disciples.

Thanks so much for sticking with us!

Mike Stroud

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Video: This Is The Timothy Network

TNet Revision Logo for letters

Click on the following link for a four minute visit with men and women who are involved with us.

https://drive.google.com/a/timothynetwork.org/file/d/0B_lksN3X1RHscC1NRHM0OHpKTEk/view

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Francis Chan: Rethinking Church

:Chan

Are you willing to think outside the church building for the sake of the Kingdom?

In the short video linked below, author and evangelist Francis Chan presents an alternative to the contemporary structure in and by which we’ve thought of “doing church.” While you might not agree with every point in the case he builds, at least consider how the house church model could be one avenue for improving efforts in disciple making.

Here’s the link:

Make disciples as you go!

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Missional Disciple Making: Get Involved!

JimmyJohn

Timothy Network exists to make disciples and equip disciple makers. Our aim is to obey the “Great Commission” in the 21st century. The Timothy Network facilitates missional learning relationships with a few others over a season of time (usually 12 – 18 months). Our teaching strategy is Bible study that goes beyond gaining knowledge. The aim is “heart-deep” learning in relational environments. We foster pro-active Christian living and accountable relationships. We teach spiritual disciplines and equip disciples to “pay it forward” by discipling others. We aim for ripple-effect multiplication, i.e. disciples who make more disciples (II Timothy 2:2). Through an expanding network of intentional discipling relationships, TNet men and women have invested in lives across the city of Murfreesboro since 2005. Men’s and women’s “pods” (composed of a discipler and two – three other people) meet weekly in coffee shops, restaurants, homes, and the workplace for study, prayer, and a koinonia-kind of fellowship. It’s discipleship based on living life together – the “one another” approach to Kingdom living that’s stressed throughout the New Testament. Disciple making is not complicated, but it does require a lot of prayer, reliance on the Holy Spirit, time, intentionality, and sacrifice. We follow purposeful methods in equipping disciple makers, methods that author Greg Ogden refers to as “the preparatory empowerment model of Jesus,” and “the spiritual parenting model of Paul.” Timothy Network avoids a hurried one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, we follow a tailor-made teaching strategy that’s adaptable and reproducible.
Will you join the mission team? The need is real, urgent, and lasting! Church growth experts agree the American church is spiraling downward. We now live in a “post-Christian world.” (Noted Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer made that observation 45 years ago!) Multiple cultural forces have converged to produce the decline, and the results are obvious. Disciple making has taken a back seat. Rather than sitting in the building wringing our hands, the job calls for determined action. Jesus made it clear that the gates of hell won’t prevail against His church, but we can’t sit on the pew and expect somebody else to do the prevailing. Every disciple of Jesus has a stake in the mission! The Timothy Network represents an effort to equip and mobilize. Please get involved and help us with the mission.

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