Tag Archives: Christianity

Discipleship

Becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t a one time event. Jesus told us that we would need to take up our cross daily in order to follow Him. Being a disciple is to constantly choose to sacrifice your desires for His. In Greek, the language the New Testament was written in, the word disciple is mathetes. According to Strong’s Concordance it means, “a learner; a disciple, a follower of Christ who learns the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require.” What’s crazy is that Jesus didn’t tell us to go into all the world to make Christians. He told us to make disciples. We are to be followers of Christ who learn Scripture and live a life that daily reflects it. Paul said it was something we must press on for because it’s not an easy decision to make and live up to, but it’s who we’re called to be.

In Luke 18, Jesus encountered a man we’ve dubbed “the rich, young ruler”. He asked Jesus, in verse 18 he asked, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially and morally good], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” (AMP) Jesus responded by telling him to follow the commandments in the Old Testament. The man wasn’t satisfied because he knew there was something more than following rules to being a disciple and follower of Jesus. So Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing; sell everything that you have and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” The man walked away sad because he wasn’t willing to take his next step in discipleship. He was ready to accept the Bible and Jesus as Lord, but unwilling to daily follow Him. Being a disciple is a matter of the heart.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also.” What do you center your life on? Is it your desires or His? Do you seek Him for direction for your life or do you allow Him to lead? To me, that last question is the difference in being a Christian and a disciple. The rich, young ruler was asking for direction, but unwilling to let Jesus lead his life. He lived life according to the Bible, but his heart kept him from experiencing the fullness of Christ. He valued his life, possessions and desires more. He wasn’t willing to nail them to the cross and follow Jesus fully. We’re all faced with that choice as Christians. Are we satisfied with being saved or do we truly want to become like Him learning Scripture and the lifestyle it requires? It’s a daily choice each of us must make.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

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Calling For Help

My son is constantly asking questions. Sometimes we know the answers. Sometimes we have to look them up. Then there are times he asks questions no one knows the answers to. It’s often a constant barrage. We usually answer him from wherever we are sitting or ask him to come to us so we can hear him better. However, if he’s ever in trouble or there’s a problem, when he calls out, we’re on the move trying to get to him. We don’t just sit there and tell him to figure it out or ignore him. Depending on where he is, sometimes he can’t see that we’re on the way. It’s a similar relationship with God that we have as His children. He’s always listening to us and our prayers. Whenever we need Him, He’s there to help even when we can’t see Him.

In Matthew 14, the disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee when a storm popped up. They were doing all they could to keep from going under. Jesus had eyes on them, but they couldn’t see Him until He came walking on the water towards them. Peter felt safer with Jesus on the water than in the boat so he asked to join Jesus. As he walked toward Jesus, Jesus walked toward him. At some point, Peter became terrified of his situation and began to sink. He cried out to Jesus for help. Jesus reached out, grabbed him and walked with him back to the boat. When they got back in, the storm stopped.

Psalm 145:18 says, “You draw near to those who call out to you, listening closely, especially when their hearts are true” (TPT). God doesn’t expect us to go through our storms alone. He’s not far away when it feels like we’re going under. He’s waiting on us to stop trying to do everything on our own. Once we realize our need for Him, and call out to Him, He draws near to pull us up and walk with us through it. When we put away our stubbornness and pride that says we can do it on our own and call out to Him, He draws near to us, reaching out. It’s a point we all must come to in those times. He doesn’t want you to suffer. He simply wants us to recognize our need for Him and to want to be close to Him. Like a good parent, when we call out, He comes running, even if it’s on water.

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Accepting Second Place

When I was a teenager, I had a shirt that read, “Second place is first loser”. When I watched “Talladega Nights” and Ricky Bobby said, “If you’re not first, you’re last,” I laughed pretty hard. He expressed my mentality pretty well. I’ve always been on the competitive side. Part of that must come from being the middle child. I honestly can’t stand losing, and now my son has it. He got a 99 on a test this year. He came home disappointed and said, “I might as well have failed.” Not being first is a hard pill to swallow, but it is what Christ has called us to. When we accept Him, we are to get off the throne of our life to make Him number one, putting ourself in second place.

On the night before Jesus was to be crucified, He knew what was coming. For 33 years He knew what He was born to do. Even though He knew it, and was willing, His flesh fought back. In Mark 14:36, we hear Him pray, “Father, my Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want” (GNT). He made a conscious effort in the most difficult circumstance to submit to God’s will and place His own in second place. He was demonstrating to us that we must yield to God and constantly offer Him first place in our lives. Anything less is not true submission to Him.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord” (AMP). Becoming a mature Christian is the process of giving up the throne of your life to Jesus. It’s willfully taking second place, which is a very hard thing to do. When we accept second place, and allow Him first place in our lives, we fulfill God’s will for our lives because we have life in proper order. If you’re struggling to give up first place, you’re not alone. It’s a daily process of taking up our cross, crucifying our flesh and following Him (Matthew 16:24). Spiritual growth and maturity happen when we accept second place.

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Assumptions

There’s an exercise I do with people to show how our minds jump to conclusions and we assume. We observe a conversation where a lot of things are left open, and then I ask them questions about it. The group doesn’t know that I’m exposing how their brain works. As I ask the questions, they typically make assumptions. I keep asking questions to get as much detail from them as I can to see how much they’ve made up.

I keep asking questions until someone inevitably says, “I don’t know.” I then go back to what was said and ask, “So what do we really know?” I sometimes have to go through it several times before they get it. Most of the answers they give are based on their assumptions and not on what they know. I then like to ask, “How much of your life is based on what you’re assuming versus what you know?” It’s a heavy question that I usually leave several seconds of silence after while they think.

Job was a righteous man in the Bible. He honored God in all he did and even fell down to worship God when he lost his kids and his wealth. As time went on and he was struck with boils, his friends began to question his integrity. In their conversations back and forth, it’s clear that they make many assumptions about his predicament and how God is doing it to Him. They don’t know that Satan is behind the whole thing and is the one tormenting Job.

In Job 19:25, Job makes a great statement. He says, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives” (NLT). We may not know why we go through certain things or why things happen, but we can know that our redeemer lives. We can live with assurance that He is in control and our lives are in His hands. We need to stop our assumptions that God is behind everything bad that happens in our lives. We know that it’s the enemy who steals, kills and destroys. It’s God who brings life. So they next time things happen, don’t make decisions based on assumptions. Go with what you know.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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No Ice Please

When my son was three, he started noticing that my wife orders her Coke at the restaurant with no ice. He asked her why she didn’t want ice and she said, “When you get ice, over time, it dilutes the drink. Plus, with ice, you get less of a drink because of displacement.” He then asked me, “Are you ‘No ice’ or ‘Yes ice’?” I told him, “‘Yes ice’ because I would rather my drink be cold than to have a lot of it.” That seemed to satisfy him, though I’m sure he didn’t understand.

If we imagine our lives as those cups, ourself as the ice, and Jesus as the drink, we can learn a spiritual concept. The more we have of ourselves inside of us, the less we can have of Jesus. If we want more of Him, we have to empty ourselves of selfish desires. The problem is that we prefer the cold, watered down version of Jesus because it’s comfortable to us. All the while, Jesus is asking us to get rid of the ice of self so we can be more like Him.

John the Baptist is one of the greatest examples in the Bible of a ‘No ice’ person. In John 3, his disciples came to Him and said, “Hey, that guy you baptized the other day, and testified that He was the Messiah, is baptizing people down the river and our people are going to Him!” In verse 30, John replied, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (ESV). He understood that his comfort wasn’t the most important thing. Letting Jesus increase was.

The question to each of us is, “Are you ‘No ice’ or ”Yes ice’?” Do you want to be full of Jesus or of yourself? If you want to be full of Jesus, then you must decrease so He can increase in your life. You’ve got to put His desires above your own. You must daily deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him in order to truly be a ‘No ice’ person. That’s struggle each of us face daily. We could all use a little less ice and a lot more Jesus.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Leading With Heart

I read article once where psychologists divide people into two categories. One where people lead with their brain and the other who lead with their heart. Neither side is wrong. It just shows how we process information and make decisions. Some of us take a thoughtful, logical approach to things, and other take am emotional, or gut feeling, approach. The brain people tend to be better at school, while the heart people tend to be better at being compassionate and empathetic. Again, they say that neither is wrong, but I can’t help but think of these different ways of processing through the lens of God’s Word.

In John 3, we meet a Pharisee named Nicodemus. He was a very learned and respected man among the Biblical scholars of that time. Jesus tried to get him to switch his thinking from his head to his heart. He told him that unless a person is born again, he couldn’t enter God’s Kingdom. Leading with logic, Nicodemus couldn’t understand. How could an adult go back into their mother’s womb? Jesus tried to explain it was a spiritual rebirth, but the concept was too hard for him to grasp at the time. It wasn’t until years later that he finally got it I believe. He was one of the two people who went to ask for Jesus’ body so he could give Him a proper burial. He let his head lead in that moment having followed the ministry of Jesus.

Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (NLT). Notice we don’t hide God’s Word in our mind. When it gets into our heart, we don’t just know it’s true. We feel it’s true, and it gets inside of who we are. We do need to logically look at God’s Word and be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about the hope within you, but we also need to let it get into our spirit. God’s Word is powerful. Sharper than any two edged sword. It rightly divides between the soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). We need to make sure we let it get into our hearts so it can transform our thinking and our lives (Romans 12:1-2).

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

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Character Building

Have you ever prayed for patience? What happened? You probably got hit with a bunch of things that tested your patience. Why? Because God doesn’t just give you character qualities. He builds them in you and refined them through His processes. When character is given, it isn’t appreciated. When it’s earned in a fiery trial, it is etched into your being. God knows what makes us tick and what we need to grow and develop. When God builds character in us, we forget that we prayed for it and usually start praying to get out of the refinement process. Both prayers have costly consequences, but only one elevates who we are. Only sticking it out through the hard times, even when you can’t see what God, is doing will build your character.

The story of Joseph has always intrigued me. He didn’t pray for a character trait, but he would need them to fulfill the dream he was given. He was excited about the dream, but didn’t know what it would cost to build and refine his character. He was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused and put in prison where he was forgotten. We don’t read where he questioned God or asked Him to stop the troubles. What we see is a man of great character and wisdom on the other side of the process. He forgave his brothers and saved them in the famine. He would have forfeited his destiny had he exited the process.

Psalm 105:17-19 says, “He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. His feet they hurt with shackles; he was put in chains of iron, until the time that his word [of prophecy regarding his brothers] came true, the word of the Lord tested and refined him” (AMP). He was tested and refined during a long season of unfulfilled hope. That’s the same process God uses with you and me. It’s not easy to keep going when you feel forgotten or when your world has fallen apart, but that’s what’s necessary. Character building and refinement are done in times when the promise is yet to be fulfilled. If you’re in one of those times, trust in God’s Word and in His process. He’s working in you and etching it into the very fiber of your being. You will be different when you come out the other side and will have what it takes to fulfill your destiny.

Thanks to Kelly Sikkema @kellysikkema for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

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Being A Disciple

My wife was flipping through some Instagram stories and reels when she came across a young couple who had just landed in Rome. They showed their travel and continued by showing themselves getting a rental. They were so excited to show off the car, but while they were recording, they noticed it was a stick shift. She asked him if he knew how to drive one. He said, “No, but I’ll Google it real quick.” That got my attention. The girl said, “Keep following us as our adventure continues while he learns to drive stick shift through Rome.” The next part of their story was just text. It said, “We couldn’t do it. We kept stalling and causing traffic in Rome. We had to return the car and get an automatic.” If you drive a stick shift, you knew that was coming because you can’t learn somethings from Google. You need to be taught by a person.

Early on in Jesus’ ministry, He sat down in the synagogues to teach. They often were amazed at His grasp of Scriptures, but it wouldn’t be long before they got mad at Him. He then called twelve men who were willing to be discipled in God’s Word. Those men then discipled others as well. In Paul’s letters to the churches, we see where he did the same thing to show us a pattern of how to grow and mature in the faith. A good part of it is studying the Scriptures yourself, but the rest is done through submitting to learning from another person. In fact, the Greek word the New Testament uses for disciple means to learn and historically is between a teacher and pupil.

2 Timothy 2:2 says, “The things [the doctrine, the precepts, the admonitions, the sum of my ministry] which you have heard me teach in the presence of many witnesses, entrust [as a treasure] to reliable and faithful men who will also be capable and qualified to teach others” (AMP). You can’t Google or study your way into a deeper relationship with God. You need to be discipled and mentored. It’s important that you find a Paul that you can talk to, ask questions of and learn from so you can better understand and apply God’s Word. You should also find yourself a timothy whom you can teach and lead. Being a disciple is what you and I are called to be and to make. If you want to experience more of what God has for you, follow this pattern of discipleship.

Photo by Meredith Spencer on Unsplash

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Debt Forgiveness

“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back.” “You fly, I’ll buy.” “Quid pro quo.” “You buy this time, I’ll buy next time.” Ever used any of these expressions? Of course you have. We all do favors for favors. It’s an offer to help in exchange for help. You’ll give them what they want if they’ll give you what you want. Everybody wins. We all play the game, but what we forget is that Jesus changed the rules on it. He expects us to do for others who have no ability to pay us back.

You see, there’s no reward in doing something for others who can pay you back. It’s not really a blessing if you get a favor in return. Part of our Christian DNA should be to do for others who are unable to pay us back. It should be a part of who we are and be a regular thing we do. When Jesus was describing who got into Heaven, this is what He said in Matthew 25-35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me” (AMPC).

In all of these examples, it was about helping someone out who couldn’t return the favor. He mentioned several times in the Gospels that we were to give without expecting anything in return. When you think about it, Jesus did that for us. He set the example of giving at a high cost for those who couldn’t pay Him back. If you’ve accepted Him as your savior, then He paid your debt for sin in full. There’s no way to repay Him for that. The best thing we can do is to follow His example. Give to those who can’t repay you, and don’t hold it over their head.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Remain In Christ

I was helping my son study for his science test this week. They’re studying flowers, plants and tree systems right now. He had to know about photosynthesis, chlorophyll, and all the parts of the plant. As I’m quizzing him, I kept thinking, “Why does an 11 year old need to know this? Why do any of us need to know this?” However, I kept asking him the questions. What do roots do? They supply water and nutrients to the plant. What is the process by which plants receive pollen so they can produce fruit? Pollination. Somewhere in the questioning, I began to see us as the plants with our need for deep roots and being pollinated by other believers.

In John 15, Jesus was giving His final instructions to the disciples before He was arrested. He had just told them that He was going away to prepare a place for us. Then He promised to send the Holy Spirit. He followed that up by telling them that He is the vine, we are the branches and God is the gardener. In verse 4 He said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (NLT). The vine is the main channel those roots give the nutrients to and unless the branches are attached to it, they can’t receive their nutrients, produce fruit or live.

God expects you and I to remain attached to Christ. He expects fruit from our lives. We can’t allow ourselves to become detached from our source. Colossians 2:7 reminds us to let our roots grow deep in Christ. We need to get our nutrients from Him and our water from His Word. We need to be around other believers in Life Groups breaking down Scriptures so we understand them better and produce fruit in our lives. If you’re not producing fruit right now, take a look at your roots. Make sure you’re grounded in Him and feeding your soul the proper nutrients. In His final sermon before His death, Jesus wanted us to know that trouble will come, distractions will arise, but we must remain in Him no matter what.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

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