Category Archives: Discipleship
Every new year, there seems to be a pruning of things that just don’t make the cut to continue as a habit or tool that is effective. Here’s a few things that I picked up or continued in 2018 that have made the jump into the new year.
2. Nate Bagatze – How have I not heard of this guy before 2018?! Absolutely hilarious and very clean comedian. If you like Jim Gaffigan and Brian Reagan, you’ll love Nate. Check him out.
3. HIIT Training – In December, I joined a High Intensity Interval Training Group at our gym. Having been a Crossfitter and 9Rounder in the past, I’ve loved the intensity and brevity of this workout. And I love doing it with a group. 30 minutes – 15+ different exercises – 80%-100% of max heart rate for 20 minutes or more. I’ve lost 15 lbs, and a couple of belt loops. And planning on a triathlon on my 45th birthday in August.
3. Music: Jenny and Tyler – Not sure how I came across their music, but I’m hooked. Very deep and meaningful lyrics. Personal feel. A couple of their songs have been very special to me during deep waters over the last year.
4. The Christian Planner – I developed a reputation a few years ago in my professions circle for being a go to guy for media and technology questions. I’ve even developed and taught courses called Social Media and Ministry and Technology for the Church Office. Well, last year, I made the backwards leap to Paper. Paper Calendar – the giant one that sits on the desk, and Paper Planner. I’ve loved the Christian Planner. Great crowd funded story from a veteran turned entrepreneur. Very user friendly, simple, and always fun to open.
5. Podcast: The World and Everything In It – The best source of daily news from a Christian perspective, in a 25 minute, engaging format. I never miss a day. Looking for a Christian news source with positive voices. Check it out on Itunes or wherever you get your podcast.
6. Book: How to Read the Bible Book by Book – I talk about this book a lot. It’s my favorite “Read along” with my daily Bible Reading plan. It summarizes every book of the Bible, so as you read along and feel a little lost in the geography or history of the Biblical narrative, the summary in this book can get you back in the know, so you can hear from God. It’s not the only one. Any Bible Handbook will do the same, but I love this one. Check it out.
7. Youversion.com / The Bible App – I’m hooked on this app for Bible Reading, sharing Bible verses, and now our church uses the Events page for sermon notes. Check it out if you haven’t already. And when you do, let’s be friends.
8. Feedly.com – for staying up to date on news and blogs on all my favorite topics, which include theology, gardening, hunting, church, technology, marriage, parenting, etc. Great place for consolidating the things that you want to see everyday from around the internet.
9. YNAB – This will be our 6th year as YNAB’ers. Love this budgeting tool and App, that helps us keep up with our money and spending. I like what I see from Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar as well, but we were YNAB’ers before that, so we’re hooked and not going anywhere. If you’re looking for a budgeting and expense tracking tool, check out YNAB. And I’ve enjoyed the YNAB Podcast this year as well.
What making life easier for you? Don’t be stingy. Please share.
It is an understatement to say that prayer was an important part of the life of Jesus. It is also an understatement to say, if it was important to him, how much more should it be to us. During our churches 40 Days of Prayer journey this year, I’ve spent some time exploring the prayers of Jesus. A simple rhythm emerged that’s worth emulating.
1. Jesus prayed ALONE.
“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” Luke 5:16
For the believer, private prayer is essential to power and essential to demonstrating to God our faith in him. If you don’t really believe in God’s promises to hear and answer prayer, you’ll never go to your private room or prayer closet, shut the door and with no one looking, seek God for power or for people (Matthew 6:6). Jesus spent considerable time alone with God. So should we.
What is your plan to pray ALONE? Where is your PLACE of private prayer?
2. Jesus prayed WITH OTHERS.
“he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.” Luke 9:28
Jesus had a small group of disciples that he did life with 24/7. He also had an inner circle of his closest friends that he gathered for special seasons of prayer and connection with God. Jesus promised special power to those who pray in agreement with others (Matthew 18:19-20), and he practiced this, by praying with others regularly throughout his ministry.
What is your plan to pray WITH OTHERS? Do you have a small group of friends that you pray with? Do you have prayer partners who pray for you regularly? Are you a faithful, praying friend to others in your life?
3. Jesus prayed FOR OTHERS.
“people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them” Matthew 19:13
Jesus talked to God about men along with talking to men about God. In Matthew 19, we see Jesus praying for children brought to him. Jesus prayed for his followers, including us future believers in John 17. The Bible even says that he intercedes for us still today (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Paul, commends intercession, or praying for others, as a top priority for believers, urging prayer for everyone, including those in authority (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
What is your plan to pray FOR OTHERS? What people do you pray for by name everyday? How are you making intercession a part of your life of prayer?
4. Jesus prayed STRENUOUSLY.
“Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12
We see Jesus, taking prayer to another level throughout his life and ministry by spending nights in prayer to the Father. He began his ministry with 40 days of fasting and prayer. We see a rhythm in the life of Christ of him exerting himself with greater intensity in prayer.
When was the last time, you took your prayer life seriously and strenuously for a season? Could you see yourself doing an annual fast? Could you see yourself doing an annual retreat where you focused on God and God’s desire for an area of your life or a person or persons in your life?
A simple rhythm of prayer: Pray Alone – Pray With Others – Pray For Others – Pray Strenuously.
Next Steps / To Do’s:
- Schedule time alone with God at least 3 times this week. Find a place of connection with God in your home or in nature.
- Join a group at a local church or start a group in your home or at your work, that is committed to praying for each other.
- Make a list of people to pray for everyday. Your family, your church, your coworkers, your neighbors. Check out the Prayer Card app to help with organizing your prayer list.
- Look at your annual calendar and plan an overnight prayer retreat or a season of fasting and prayer this year. More about fasting HERE.
“Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 7:2,3
The Disciple of Christ must make the Word of God his constant companion. We do this through reading, studying, committing to memory, meditating on, and applying God’s Word EVERYDAY. Over the last six months, I’ve reinvigorated my MEMORIZING OF and MEDITATING ON the Word of God using the Bible Memory App. See my post on Cultivating the Habit of Scripture Memory for more about my journey.
Why is Memorizing Scripture an important Discipline for a Follower of Christ? Here are 4 Reasons:
1. IT WILL HELP ME DEAL WITH TEMPTATION. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:9-11. Jesus used memorized scripture to defeat the temptations of Satan himself. If he used it, how much more do you and I need scripture stored away as a weapon against temptation.
2. IT WILL HELP ME MAKE WISE DECISIONS. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” Psalm 119:105. The principles and promises of the Word of God give clear directions for decision making and facing the crossroads in life.
3. IT WILL COMFORT ME WHEN I’M STRUGGLING. “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16. My journey began during one of life’s rough patches, that I longed to have the promises of God nearer to my heart. What do you have in your mind to challenge the minds, the world’s, the devils wrong perceptions of events in life. The Word of God is a perfect remedy.
4. IT WILL HELP ME WITNESS TO UNBELIEVERS. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15. God promises to use His word in the transformation of peoples lives (Hebrews 4:13; Isaiah 55:11). I struggle with persuasion and to know what to say. Memorizing Scripture helps me in responding to questions and objections. The Word of God is the best witnessing tool we have as disciples of christ.
How do I Memorize a Verse?
Here is the process I started with in my collegiate years:
1. Pick a verse that is meaningful to you.
2. Say the reference at the start and end.
3. Say it aloud.
4. Break the verse into natural phrases.
5. Write the verse on and index card.
6. Display in prominent places (mirror, computer, dashboard, etc.)
7. Always memorize word perfect.
8. Put verse to music.
9. Get a partner for accountability.
10. Start one or two verses a week.
Now, technology helps us do all of this. I’ve found the Bible Memory App to provide a great process and system to commit verses to memory on an even a more regular basis.
When do I memorize a verse?
- During your time alone with God. Hopefully you’re spending a daily time with God. If not, start that now. Then verses to memorize will present themselves as you read and study God’s Word. Get our booklet How to Get a Grip on the Bible for help in getting started with a Daily Time with God.
The Key to Memorizing anything for most people is repetition and review. So to memorize scripture, you need a plan and time to review. That’s where the Bible Memory App or other Apps can help. The app lays out a review schedule for each verse and most people have their phone with them at all times.
- When you are waiting. Just think of all the moments that you currently scroll social media. What if you just turned half of that time into reviewing the eternal, life changing Word of God? I review my verses anytime I’m waiting or sitting, during commercials, and then immediately when I wake up and before I go to bed, I’m sure to review two verses.
You have the time. You have the technology. You need the wisdom and spiritual ammo. Get started today and begin hiding and treasuring the word of God for yourself.
See my post Cultivating the Habit of Scripture Memory on how to get started with the Bible Memory App.
The brain is an amazing organ. It’s ability to catalog information for the future, to block out traumatic events, to recognize things and places, and so much more is an incredible aspect of our wondrous and remarkable creation (Psalm 139:13-14). I believe that we utilize an incredibly small portion of what the brain is capable of. Taking the easy way out through amusement or observing other peoples smarts is the rule of the day. God calls us to engage our faith fully with our minds. We’re called to read (Revelations 1:3), study (2 Timothy 2:15), meditate on (Psalm 1:1-2), memorize (Psalm 119:9-11), and apply the word of God to our lives (James 1:22). We’re promised the brain hacks of wisdom, insight, knowledge, discernment (Proverbs 2:1-10) as gifts of God to aid our lives and our learnings.
So how are you engaging your mind through spiritual disciplines and habits?
In 2018, I re-established the habit of scripture memory. I had picked up the habit during my collegiate years through the influence of the Navigators and use of their Topical Memory System. Since 2002-2003 this habit was sporadic. In 2018, after going through one of life’s rough patches and longing for the promises of God to be nearer to my heart and mind, I downloaded a few Bible Memory Apps to try out. I landed on the Scripture Typer App, now called the Bible Memory App and after 7 months, I have mastered 430 verses. The Bible Memory App provides a great system to start and maintain the regular habit of memorizing and reviewing scripture. The key to memory for most people is repitition and review. With the Bible Memory App, you progress through verses by reviewing and as you review verses correctly, through typing the first letter of each word in a verse, your review schedule for each verse lengthens. So now, with 430 verses mastered, I’m still only reviewing 25-30 verses each day, spending 10-30 minutes each day in scripture memory.
Where did I find the time? I’ve pretty much replaced 75% of the time I spent on Social Media and other quite meaningless web surfing with this habit. I feel much better about myself. My faith is strengthening. Scripture memory improves your preaching and teaching, if you do that regularly, which I do. Besides the spiritual benefits, Scripture memory is also a habit and memory exercise that if maintained can keep the brain sharp as you age, potentially warding off dementia and cognitive decline.
Let me encourage you to try this Biblical injunction out and develop it into a habit. You will not regret it. If you use the Bible Memory App, here’s how I would get started:
- Download the App, open and account, find the Verse Library and start with the Group of Verses called “Verses for Children.” About 20 verses that are short, familiar, foundational.
- After that, move to the Group “Top 100 Verses.” Another great group of verses that are short, familiar, foundational.
- After that, pick another verse library category that speaks to where you are in life. Or, you can search for a group that you would like to connect with. I started with the Topical Memory System Group, because those verses were familiar to me. Right now, I have a group that is trying to memorize every YouVersion.com “Verse of the Day.” Find the group HERE.
- Put together a group with your Small Group, family, accountability partner, or for your church.
There are other apps and tools out there. Which one have you found helpful?
You can do this. Yes, you’ve got the time. You need this habit. Now, it’s not something we HAVE TO DO, as believers. It is something WE GET TO DO. Hiding God’s word in your heart is a privilege, given to us by God.
Tomorrow – Why and How to Memorize Scripture?
“You don’t have to be rich to tithe, but you do have to be organized.”
I’m convinced many people are just not organized enough to make a difference with their money and resources. Obedience to God seldom happens by accident. It requires conviction, courage, and a decision to do what’s right, before the opportunity comes. What decisions do Christians need to make in regard to money?
- Give it all to God. Understand that it’s all His anyway. He’s made you a steward or manager of it, for now. Hopefully, you are not Lord over your life. If you’ve allowed Christ to take the reigns in your life, has that extended to your checking account?
- Know what you have. Do you have a budget and a tool that helps you track income and outflow? Watching the balance and putting the breaks on when you’re close to broke, is not a plan. If you’re doing that, you’re most likely broke and don’t know it yet.
- Plan for obedient generosity. God calls us to sacrificial, regular, cheerful giving (Malachi 3:10; Luke 6:38; 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7). Pick a % of your income that is sacrificial, give it regularly (weekly, bi-monthly, monthly), and do it with a smile. God’s promised blessings WILL be know to you soon.
Here are a few tools that help us plan for generosity and obedience:
- YNAB – YouNeedaBudget.com. Great budgeting a tracking tool for income and expenses. Small annual fee. Everydollar.com, by Dave Ramsey, looks good as well. We were already sold on YNAB before that came out.
- Dave Ramsey Resources. Dave Ramsey’s books, web resources, and daily podcasts, helps me keep my mind renewed in regards to money and its pitfalls. Find at daveramsey.com.
- A few helpful blogs that I follow
- PTMoney.com – Phil Taylor is a Louisiana man. Now famous financial blogger and conference host.
- Mary Hunt’s blog, everydaycheapskate.com. Mary Hunt’s book on Debt Free Living was helpful to us in the early years of our marriage. Her blog is full of tips and tricks to save money on every day stuff of life.
What decisions, challenges, resources have you found helpful in regard to money and finances?
Believing in God’s power to provide means trusting God enough to obey His precepts about Giving and Resting.
- Giving sacrificially, regularly, and cheerfully. Giving a % of your income to God.
- Setting aside one day in seven for rest and worship. Sabbath.
If I trust God, then I believe that I can do more with 6 days of work and God’s power than I can with 7 days of work in my power. I can do more with 90% of my income and God promises than I can with 100% of my income in my own power.
- Do I trust God enough to take a day off from work to recharge and reconnect with him? Or do I believe that it is my effort alone that makes my ends meet?
- Do I trust God enough to believe his promises toward the generous? or do I believe that what I have is mine and I deserve all of it?
We know we’re supposed to be witnesses for Christ. We know that people need Christ. What is it that is stopping us from being obedient and engaging the real needs of people?
Here are a few excuses that I’ve used over the years, that still plague my selfish heart today.
1. “I don’t have time.”
We make time for what’s important to us. Obeying Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:21) and helping others (Philippians 2:3-4) find help and eternal life should be on our list somewhere. If we make time for what we care about, are we really saying “I don’t care about what Jesus wants and others need”? Let’s make time!
2. “That’s not my job.”
This is passing our Christian duty off to the person that does more harm in churches that anyone – SOMEBODY ELSE. “Somebody else will do something” – “Why didn’t somebody help them?” – “The pastor should have done something about that.” Passing off the duty of every Christian to somebody else robs you of an opportunity to see God work and it robs people in your sphere of influence of your unique witness to them. It is your job!
3. “They know where I am if they need me.”
This is the classic rearranging of Jesus’ commission to the church. Jesus said that believers should “Go into all the world…” (Matthew 28:19). It’s a commission that requires intentionality on our part. Jesus didn’t commission the lost world to find the church, but the church to find the lost and bring them to Him. Let’s not wait for them to ask! Take initiative and go and find the lost. Glad someone did that for me!
4. “They’ll never change.”
When we say “They’ll never change” about someone that needs Christ, I believe we’re saying more about what we believe about God, than what we believe about that person. Our faith is not in the ability of people to change, but in God’s power to transform. With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26), so with God, no one is a lost cause. Change is possible for anyone that hears the gospel. It’s not our job to make final judgments about someones heart condition. It’s our job to share the message that can change their hearts (Romans 10:17). We’ll never know if they could have changed, if we withhold the gospel.
5. “I don’t know what to say.”
This can be another way of saying, “I don’t care,” because we tend to find the information that we care about. We can find and remember the best Disney deals, the stats on our favorite football teams, all the restaurants with kids eat free deals, etc. Have we taken the time to learn and understand some keys to sharing the gospel with different people. We don’t have to be Bible scholars or have seminary degrees to correctly share the gospel with people in our lives. You know enough right now most likely. And you have within you the power of the Holy Spirit who promises to help give you the words to say. Don’t hold back. Say it today!
Bridge Church‘s summer message series is designed to tackle the last excuse in this list. In our series What Do I Say When…? we hope to equip ourselves with what to say to people at different points of need in our lives. Join Bridge Church at 10am on Sunday’s at the Maritime Museum in Madisonville and get equipped to make an impact and engage the real needs of your world for Christ. You can also find the messages HERE or on Itunes.
For a church to break growth barriers, systems must be created to help maximize the giftedness of the people for the good of the community and the church. One of the areas that often becomes an issue as a church begins to grow and age is Pastoral Care. How does this happen?
- May be that the pastor takes all the weight upon himself and starts down the road to burnout stifling his leadership and the growth of the church,
- May be resentment and criticism began to divide because of the elusive ENOUGH – “the church isn’t doing enough for me.”
- May be there’s an Acts 6 moment where the church realizes that needs are being unmet, like those of the Helenistic Jewish widows in the story of the first New Testament church (Act 6:1-7).
Eventually, the need to systematize and scale pastoral care will become apparent in a congregation.
The Question is: Who is Responsible for Pastoral Care in the Church?
Here’s how my church has answered this important question:
1. The Body of Christ
We are actually all responsible to care for one another – See Philippians 2:3-4, Galatians 6:1-2. We are to be looking out for the needs of each other as members of a church. Churches should seek to have a culture of compassion and care that leads people to look beyond themselves to the needs of others.
I asked a pastor of a fast-growing church, how he scales pastoral care. He said, almost every week, I tell people to turn to the person next to them and say, “It’s not about me.”
2. Small Groups
Small Groups are a great place to foster compassion and care. The Small Group ministry is a household to household ministry. In smaller groups, the needs of individuals can be more easily identified than on Sunday mornings. Churches should teach small group leaders that they are shepherd/pastors to their group and the first place for care.
3. Pastors / Elders
The Bible also calls godly pastors / elders to the task of pastoral care – 1 Peter 5:2, Acts 20:28. Their care was to be more oversight though. It was these that appointed Stephen to care for the individual needs of widows. Their pastoral care role should be more in the refuting, holding accountable, prayer, and teaching/preaching. Most pastors want to be involved in every pastoral care case, but they can’t always in growing churches. Churches must recognize their equipping role and not set the expectation that they be the sole proprietor of care for everyone.
4. The Cares Team
A best practice in growing churches is to equip a team to be a part of pastoral care in the church. This is a recognition that the pastor can’t do it all and that God is equipping members of His body to be shepherds along side the pastor of the church. Much of the task of pastoral care is administrative. Others can and should take on some of the roles of setting up meals, scheduling visits, visiting the hospitals, ordering flowers, even sharing at funerals, praying with people, etc., etc. Find a way to identify and equip the churches shepherds for the work of ministry.
5. Outside Support
What happens when pastoral care needs are beyond the scope of the churches care? Churches should recognize the support they have outside of their own body. Other churches may have ministries that could help. There are solid Christian counselors in every community that would love to be available to individuals or the church at large.
How does your church scale pastoral care? What would you add to this list?
The Christian life is meant to be lived out in relationships. Here are five key relationships for every Christ Follower:
Right Church | My On Mission Family that I pool my gifts, energy, and resources with for the expansion of God’s kingdom.
Small Group | My Circle of 8-12 friends that I grow with and care for on a regular basis.
Prayer Partner(s) | My smaller circle of 2-3 close friends that know my struggles and prayer needs
My Mentor / Spiritual Father(s) or Mother(s) | Someone ahead of me in the journey that I can learn from along the path of spiritual fruitfulness.
Mentee / Person(s) I am Discipling | Someone I’m ahead of in the journey that I can help along the path of spiritual fruitfulness
These relationships have been so key for me as a believer. Looking through this list, I see faces that make me smile. So many on mission friends that have shaped me at church, in small groups, close confidential prayer partners, spiritual fathers, and now people I get the privilege of helping to grow. Not sure where I’d be without these relationships.
If you’re missing out on one of these key relationships, ask God to direct you to or send you to the right church, a circle of friends, a prayer partner, a spiritual father, and/or someone to disciple today.