Category Archives: Discipleship
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.
The book of James gives us some great truths about prayer.
- PRAYER WORKS! James 1:5
- Prayer works WHEN IT’S TRIED. James 4:2
- Prayer works when it’s tried WITH RIGHT MOTIVES. James 4:3
- Prayer works when done IN COMMUNITY. James 5:13-16
James also tells us about the power of prayer:
1. We can BE STRONG and ACCOMPLISH MORE through prayer. This is how the words “powerful in its effect” in James 5:16 can also be translated. Strength and accomplishment.
2. James puts one condition on prayers power: “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” James 5:16. To gain full advantage in prayer, one must be RIGHT with God. This points to the need of a RELATIONSHIP with God through Christ. This is how we gain RIGHTEOUSNESS (see 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 3:18). Goodness is the best we can do, but RIGHTEOUSNESS is needed to get to heaven and to know all the blessings of life IN CHRIST, including a powerful, strong prayer life.
3. Prayer Requires Intentionality, Commitment, and Faith. James gives an example of the power of prayer from the life of Elijah. Elijah’s prayer actually changed weather patterns (James 5:17-18)! It’s a lesson in the endless possibilities of dependence upon God. As Jesus said it, “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
James says that Elijah prayed fervently or earnestly. This word proseuche is rich with meaning. Here are some ways that its definition and usage can be applied:
- pros means near of toward – prayer brings nearness to God
- seuche means vow or commitment – prayer is bringing our hearts near or toward God. Prayer should bring with it a heart of surrender and sacrifice and a commitment that says we are serious about our relationship, dependence, and usefulness to God.
- proseuche also denoted a real place. The word was used by Jews who lived in a city without a synagogue to mark a place for prayer gatherings. It also was used to describe an altar where people brought gifts prior to prayer and worship. Of course Jesus, encouraged or commanded the use of a prayer closet (Matthew 6:6).
Is your heart RIGHT with God? Do you have a PLACE for prayer? Do you believe in prayers power? Are you ready to give your heart to God? Then get after it, and expect to experience the powerful effects of prayer!
If you are a follower of Christ, hopefully you’re asking, “How will I grow in my faith in the New Year?” Intentionality is the friend of spiritual growth. A goal of mine is to read the Bible through each year. 10-20 minutes of reading each day will get you there. If you’re a believer, reading the Bible through is a must to give you the big picture perspective of the faith and of the book that is our guide for spiritual growth.
A few tips and tricks from my journey:
- I love using technology in Bible Reading. Youversion.com or the Bible App is my go to partner in faith development. Makes it easy to track, share, and be creative with images, etc. Also has a large variety of plans for every persons interest and needs.
- Last year, I used the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan which gives you 5 days off each month. Would be a good plan for busy people because of the 5 days of grace.
- I finished the plan early enough to get in the 40 Days through the New Testament Challenge here at the end of the year. Very challenging. 7-8 chapters each day. I’m a slow reader, and I like to highlight and journal through what I’m reading, so some of these readings took me all day! Very good challenge to take though as I am more convinced than ever that there is nothing more hope filled than the message of the New Testament.
- I’ll probably go back with the One Year Bible Reading Plan this year. I’ve finished it 3 or 4 times. It takes you through the entire Bible and the book of Psalms twice. Psalms everyday is good when your reading is in some of the meatier sections of the Bible.
- How do you make it through the meatier sections of the Bible? I like to use a Bible Handbook when I’m reading through hard to understand sections like the Major Prophets. My favorite is How to Read the Bible Book by Book. Pick up any Bible Handbook as a helpful read along through the Bible.
- “But I don’t always have time to read during the day.” Same here. At least once per week, I leave my house at 4:30am or so. This doesn’t allow me time to get my reading in. So, I use the Bible Apps audio feature and listen through my planned reading for that day. I’ve found balancing listening and reading to the Bible helpful. Most of the Bible was written to be read aloud by others. It helps bring some passages alive to hear it read out loud. Try it.
Get some of my other tips and tricks for devotional life HERE. And let’s connect on the Bible App to encourage one another this year.
If you’re new to Bible Reading, check out our little booklet How to Get a Grip on the Bible to get started.
Wrapping up the 3rd Quarter of the Year this weekend. 92 more days of 2017! Good time to assess ourselves spiritually. A good 4th quarter will probably make those January resolutions a little easier. Ha!
Our church strategizes around Five Catalyst for Spiritual Growth. They are also good tools for assessing our spiritual lives. These came out of a personal investigation of things I’ve heard Spiritual Giants Say. Pray or journal through these questions.
2. Personal Devotional Habits – Am I spending time being fed and filled by Jesus through His Word and prayer? Take an on ramp to this catalyst HERE.
3. Engaging in Ministry – Am I using my gifts with radical generosity or holding on to / burying what God has given me? Christianity and Church only make sense through the lens of service.
4. Building Catalytic Relationships – Am I involved in any relationships that encourage, challenge, and hold me accountable? Why Bother with Relationships?
5. Experiencing God’s Providential Care – Am I depending on God and graciously receiving help from others as I experience trials? Are my eyes open to how I can be the body of Christ to others experiencing hardships?
God desires for you to grow. Spiritual growth is not automatic. These catalysts reflect the tools we have for spiritual growth. Praying that this fall you will “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).