Built from the Ground Up

Have you ever watched a skyscraper being built?  They start by digging a big hole, then pour concrete footings, add steel beams, and lots of glass, along with countless hours of hard work by hundreds if not thousands of skilled craftsmen.  The finish work includes plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning, plus lots of walls, doors, and carpet.  A skyscraper is an extraordinarily complicated project; nevertheless, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the complexity of the body you are living in right now.

God Built You from the Ground Up

God is not only the builder but also the designer of the body you live in.  Your beating heart and your expanding and contracting lungs are His design and construction.  The difference between humans and skyscrapers is the simple fact that we are not all built to exacting tolerances.  In His ultimate wisdom, God has built some of us to near perfection and a great many others to a somewhat lesser degree of excellence.  Those of us who are living in an imperfect body sometimes tend to be jealous of those who are without blemish. But the truth is, God has a purpose for our imperfection. God doesn’t make mistakes.  There is a reason He built you just the way you are.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  Genesis 2:7 (NIV)

How to Embrace the Body God Built for You

For some it may be very difficult to embrace a human structure that is a constant ordeal or in need of continuous maintenance.  There is nothing easy about living in pain or with a disability that only makes life more difficult.  Even a relatively minor difference like being too short, or too tall, or slightly overweight, can make life a bit of an uncomfortable challenge. Your builder and designer, God, is aware of every moment of your day.  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, God is with you every moment of every day.  Whatever challenge God has given you is one you can be certain He is confident you can endure.  One might even conclude, the greater the challenge, the more confidence God has in your abilities to overcome diversity.  While we can’t know for sure why God has created some of us with less than perfect bodies, we can know for sure it was not an accident; He has a plan that includes our imperfections.  Our mission is to stay focused on loving God and loving our neighbors without regard for our own difficulties.  That unselfish desire to serve rather than be served will guide us toward God’s ultimate reason for creating us just the way we are.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

All or Nothing

Marriage is an all or nothing proposition.  Getting married and dating on the side simply doesn’t work.   Even without looking at marriage from a Biblical perspective, most people would prefer their marriage to be all or nothing.  The same is true for your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Are You Holding Anything Back?

When we make a decision to follow Jesus and trust Him as our Lord and Savior, we sometimes hold a little back.  I think we’ve all done it to some degree.  There’s that “not so bad” sin that we only do every now and then that doesn’t really hurt anybody.  Jesus won’t notice a tiny indulgence.  I can hold back just a little worldly pleasure for myself.  That’s the way the thinking generally goes.  Is studying the Bible really all that important?  Do we really need to attend a worship service every week?  What about prayer?  Does God even listen to prayer anymore?  A night out drinking isn’t a big deal if you only do it once a month – right? A careful reading of the Bible seems to suggest Jesus is looking for a much bigger commitment.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:26 (NIV)

How to Give Him Everything

Yes, following Jesus is an all or nothing proposition. The above scripture is telling us our love for God needs to exceed our love for all of our other family members; indeed our love for God needs to exceed the love we have for ourselves.  Following Jesus needs to be at the top of our list and should exclude all else this world has to offer.  Jesus died on the cross so that we can travel with Him to an eternal existence that far and away outshines anything this world has to offer.  That realization is what makes it easy to say no to this world and yes to Jesus.  The teachings of Jesus will provide us with that awesome future; and if carefully considered, produce a life that is totally fulfilling. Are you holding anything back?  Or are you giving it all to Jesus?

“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  John 12:25 (NIV)

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Light in the Darkness

Imagine you’re sitting around the dinner table at night with your family when suddenly the power goes out and your home is plunged into darkness. Without light, everything comes to a halt.  You stop eating.  You are now obsessed with finding light.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12 (NIV)

Many people in this world are walking around in the dark.  They are not obsessed with finding light because they don’t even realize they are living in darkness.  As a follower of Jesus Christ you have been entrusted with His light.  It’s up to you to lead the way out of the dark.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

When you serve God by serving others your light shines brightly, revealing the darkness, and pointing the way for others to find the light.  Jesus is the light that reveals God.  Jesus has entrusted you with His light to reveal God to those in the darkness.  It is your “good deeds” that generate the most light and help others see Jesus.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”  John 12:46 (NIV)

There is nothing better than your service to others to reveal God’s love to those living in darkness.  Much of what we do as believers in worship and in prayer is internal, but the real expression of our faith is external – in the love we share when reaching out to those in need.  When your light shines in this way, others will want to know where your strength is coming from and this will open the door for you to share the gospel in a meaningful way.  Keep your light burning brightly in all that you do and God will be delighted by your effort.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

 

 

Pointed in the Same Direction

It’s important for followers of Jesus to all be pointed in the same direction, working together to share the gospel and serve God by serving others.  The more we work together, the more we can accomplish.  God is watching and He doesn’t want to see us disjointed, but united in this common goal.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”  Philippians 1:27 (NIV)

Individual believers should be working together with other believers.  Small groups of believers should be working together with other small groups.  Churches should be working together with other churches.  Christian denominations should be working together with other Christian denominations.  The best way to spread the gospel is by serving others with the love the Holy Spirit provides.  Working together we can overwhelm the world with God’s love.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”  Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV)

All believers, individually and corporately, need to look around and see where God is clearly working and then join that effort.  We don’t have to all come up with our own path forward, we all need to seek out God’s path forward and join together to accomplish His goals.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

Dedicated followers of Jesus Christ know all too well the seriousness of God’s warning to unbelievers.  When there is a raging fire, one man will not be enough to extinguish the flames.  Many working together are what’s needed to overcome a raging inferno. Believers are fully aware of the enemy’s activities and know without a doubt that it will take an army to overcome his efforts.

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  Philippians 2:12 (NIV)

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the watchful eye of God the Father, and through the awesome sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we have been tasked with fulfilling God’s desire for us to spread the gospel by serving others with love. Let’s reaffirm our commitment to work together toward this goal.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  Philippians 2:13 (NIV)

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

 

 

What’s Wrong with Religion?

Skye Jethani starts his book by telling us everyone is religious.  He says that whatever way we seek to gain control over the world, is in fact our religion.  He goes on to suggest that your ultimate concern, which could be wealth, power, relationships, or whatever, essentially is our god.  Your god provides a sense of meaning and control and is therefore your religion.

Jethani believes that religion, while promising to remove our fears, only makes the world a more dangerous place.  He argues that using God to achieve our dreams is spiritual consumerism.  And he details why he believes using religion to change the world is a waste of time.  His arguments are well thought out and meticulously detailed in a style that’s easy to understand.  Jethani gets right to the point in each chapter which makes for a quick read.

In the end, Jethani tells us God doesn’t care about obedience or disobedience; he cares about our presence. He tells us that because our God consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it is clear that the foundation of our universe is relational.  Therefore, the answer is not religion, but the answer is to abide with Jesus; to essentially become part of the Trinity.  The secret to this connection is love.  The bottom line as Jethani sees it, is not to live for God but to live with God.

Overall, this is a well thought out description of how we approach religion and our relationship with God.  Jethani takes the time to unpack his uncommon perspective in a manner that will cause the reader to look at religion from a completely different point of view.  You will come away from this read with a deeper understanding of your own connection to religion and God.

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Silence

This is the story of two Jesuit priests from Portugal who travel to Japan in 1670 to find their mentor, another Jesuit priest who went to Japan to spread the gospel and is now rumored to have renounced the faith.  The two younger priests, Rodrigues and Garupe can’t believe their mentor, Ferreira, would ever, under any circumstance renounce his faith.  They are both so committed to finding Ferreira they are willing to travel to Japan where Christians are being tortured and killed for their faith.

After arriving in Japan, Rodrigues and Garupe spend their time hiding out in small villages administering their Catholic faith to the devoted believers.  After some time serving in the small villages, Rodrigues and Garupe decide they need to split up and each serve in different villages.  Rodrigues ends up being captured by the samurai and is put through a grueling ordeal of physical and mental torture in an effort to get him to renounce his faith.

Eventually Rodrigues is reunited with Garupe only to watch him die trying to save a group of Christians who are drowned in the ocean.  Finally, Rodrigues is brought face-to-face with Ferreira, his respected mentor, and discovers it is true he has renounced his faith and is now living with a Japanese wife and serving Japan as a science teacher.  Ferreira works to convince Rodrigues that he can still serve others after he renounces his faith and that Buddhism and Christianity are alike in their desire to serve others.

Rodrigues endures his mental torture for a long time before he is forced to watch the torture of five Christians that he can save if he renounces his faith.  In his heart he believes renouncing his faith to save the lives of these five Christians is what God wants him to do, so he gives in and begins a new life apart from his faith.  Working alongside Ferreira, the two ex-priests are tasked with making sure nothing Christian is smuggled into Japan as one of their official duties. Ferreira eventually dies followed later by Rodrigues who is placed in his coffin holding a small crucifix, (likely place their by his wife) indicating he outwardly renounced his faith but in his heart still trusted Jesus.

This is a very dark and difficult to watch film with graphic depictions of torture and decapitation. It is however a beautifully made film with suburb cinematography and masterful directing by Martin Scorsese.  Only watch this film if you are willing to take a long (2h 41min) dark trip into doubt and fear.  Silence is adapted from a 1966 Japanese novel of the same name.  It’s hard to say precisely what the novelist or Martin Scorsese are trying to say with this work because there is no overtly stated message.  My guess is both men want the reader or viewer to walk away with questions rather than answers.  How important is your faith?  Can you live out your faith in your heart without any outward demonstration of your faith?  These are the questions that come to mind for me.  I believe this film is a trip worth taking, but you must be prepared for the journey.

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You are a Disciple of Christ

(I recommend you follow this study in order starting with Path to Discipleship.)

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  Mark 8:34 (NIV)

If you’ve followed along with this series of posts on discipleship, you should have a clear understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  You should know that discipleship is not a part time job or seasonal employment.  A disciple is someone who has been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and now lives a life dedicated to following Jesus.  Discipleship is not a series of steps or a list of activities you check off – discipleship is a completely new life empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Once you plant yourself firmly on the path to discipleship and your heart has been established in dedicated service to God, you are a disciple of Christ.

Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ?

Are you committed to studying the Word of God?

Do you have an active prayer life?

Do you have regular fellowship with other believers?

Do you share your faith at every opportunity?

Are you serving God by serving others?

If you can answer yes to all of the questions above, you are a disciple of Christ.  If you are dedicated to maintaining a yes answer to all of the above questions for the rest of your life, you are a disciple of Christ.

As a disciple of Christ, your service to God by serving others should be an ever-present part of your life.  Day by day, week after week, you should be finding new ways to serve God. As a disciple of Christ, you should be guiding others toward Jesus, you should be leading people to Christ, and you should be nurturing new disciples.

The work of a disciple of Christ is never ending.  As a disciple, you are no longer a part time Christian who visits church once a week and then goes back to the world.  You have now established yourself firmly as a dedicated follower of Jesus.  Rather than being pushed around by this world, you have now chosen to follow the path God places before you – a path dedicated to sharing God’s love with the world.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:35 (NIV)

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Discipleship Discipline Six

(I recommend you follow this study in order starting with Path to Discipleship.)

Personal Ministry

The goal of Discipleship Discipline Six is to develop your personal talents that can be used for ministry, to participate in ministry using your talents, and to develop new ways to minister to others using your talents.

Those things that you do well and enjoy doing are your personal talents.  God has given each of us the ability to excel in some area of ministry.  You can identify your talents by looking back on your life and noting those times you felt particularly useful.  You may also ask those who are close to you to offer their opinion of where your talents are best used.  Another approach would be to search for a  Spiritual Gifts Survey online that will derive your talents based on a series of questions. From a practical point of view, survey questions don’t specifically point to how well you might respond to any specific task currently opened to your participation.  Sometimes finding out where your talents lie is a matter of trial and error.  Look for available opportunities to assist in ministry, select those you have an interest in, and give them a try.  Over time you will have a clear indication of where your talents can be of the most use.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”  Romans 12:4-6 (NIV)

Serve God by Serving Others

No matter what your spiritual gift or personal talent is, the goal is the same – serve God by serving others.  Sometimes we have to set our talent aside and simply do the work that’s in front of us.  If you’re a talented musician, serving in the worship band would be ideal, but perhaps what’s needed is more workers in children’s ministry.  Or maybe you have a gift for leadership and feel you could best be used building a team of small group leaders, but what’s needed is help painting the sanctuary.  Often our greatest gift and strongest talent is the ability to be flexible and serve where service is needed.

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  Mark 9:35 (NIV)

Explore All Possibilities

As you become more involved in ministry and serving God by serving others, you will not only identify your personal talents but you will also develop new talents you didn’t know you had.  Experience is by far the best teacher.  The more you do, the more you will know about yourself.  The more you do, the more you will learn and grow to become useful in many areas you never dreamed of being part of your ministry.  A true disciple of Christ will make use of every opportunity to serve God by serving others.  There are no boundaries for service to God.  If the need is in front of you, do what you can to fill that need.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

Everyday Ministry

Every day brings opportunity to minister to others.  There is no need to wait for a specific ministry job to become available; you can use your talents to minister to others on a daily basis.  Start by offering encouragement to those in ministry who have helped you along the way.  Church staff members are often overwhelmed by complaints and suggestions on how to better administer their service.  A simple note of thanks and encouragement for the hard work they are doing will be a blessing. Someone living alone in your neighborhood may be greatly blessed by a visit.  A young couple you know may be blessed by providing child care so they can have a night out.  A student may be blessed by you helping with their homework.  There are endless possibilities for service to others.  You will need to make an effort to identify where you can be of service and let it be known among your friends and family that you are available.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)

Volunteer

There are many faith-based organizations that cannot survive without volunteers.  Likewise, there are many other service organizations that may not have a specific spiritual connection that are still doing God’s work serving others.  Serving at a food pantry or homeless shelter regardless of its religious affiliation is still ministry.  We serve God by serving others not by serving some religious organization.  A simple online search for opportunities to volunteer in your area will likely turn up several possibilities.  Pray for guidance and select a service project that is calling to your heart.  When you find yourself working outside of a setting designated as Christian, look for opportunities to share biblical truth without stepping outside of the boundaries of the organization you are working for.

“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”  Isaiah 58:10 (NIV)

Develop Your Own Ministry

Once you have spent several years exploring your ministry talents, you may be called to develop your own personal ministry.  The Internet provides a worldwide opportunity to minister to others and there are many creative ways you can use all manner of social media to express your talents.  Look around the community in which you live and identify where the needs are and where the ministry gaps exist.  Does your community need a food pantry to help those in need?  Is there a homeless population that is being ignored?  Do those seeking to know more about Jesus have an easily identified source for answers and guidance?  Are the elderly being properly cared for in your community?  Are there a number of people in your community who would like to go to church on Sunday but simply don’t have a way to get there?  As a disciple of Christ, your mission is to look for those in need and do everything possible to resolve that need.  The power of the Holy Spirit that resides in you is the same power that Jesus used in His ministry.  Take hold of that power and walk in the footsteps of Jesus until He returns.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)

Your are a Disciple of Christ

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serve God by serving others using your talents.

Discipleship Discipline Five

(I recommend you follow this study in order starting with Path to Discipleship.)

Share the Gospel with the World

The goal of Discipleship Discipline Five is to develop the ability to articulate why you are a Christian, why others should trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and to assist in sharing the gospel in some way.  The ultimate goal is for you to personally participate in sharing the gospel and to contribute to an ongoing effort to share the gospel.

Sharing the gospel will be different depending on what country you are in and what area of that country you will be available to work.  In some parts of the world, people are hungry for a spiritual connection to God.  In places like the United States, there are many who have already heard the gospel message and rejected it; in fact, there are many who are outright hostile to any discussion about God.  How you approach your chosen mission field will need to be tailored to the audience you will encounter.

Preparation

In all cases your preparation will be the same.  You should start with yourself.  Write out a detailed account of how you became a believer in Jesus Christ.  Include what your life was like before you trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, how you came to trust Him, and what your life is like since the day of your Salvation.  Analyzing your own experience will give you some insight as to how you might approach others.

Next, you will want to seek out resources of suggested ways to share the gospel with unbelievers.  If possible, find someone who does this kind of work on a regular basis and join them as an observer.  Learn as much as you can about all the different approaches to sharing the gospel and adopt those you feel the most comfortable with for yourself.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”    Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

All the World

Miraculously, all the world is at our fingertips via the Internet.  Face-to-face encounters can be intimidating for those new to evangelism; however, the various forms of social media make it possible to share the gospel across the globe with a click of the keyboard.  Look around and see how others are using the Internet to spread the gospel and consider how you might join in the effort.  Be careful, the Internet can be a wild and untamed place.  When confronted by those whose only goal is to disrupt your efforts, the best course of action is to simply ignore them and block them from your account if possible.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  Matthew 10:16 (NIV)

Let Your Light Shine

One of the best ways to share your faith is to be a bright light that others will want to emulate.  If you are constantly full of joy and sharing God’s love at every opportunity, people will naturally want to know your secret.  Be ready.  When asked about your bright spirit, have a ready answer that directs those interested to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There are many resources that provide instruction on how to share your faith.  Do some research and find the method that works best for you.

“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”  Acts 13:52 (NIV)

Keep Records

Be aware of those people in your life who are unbelievers.  Make a list and keep track of your efforts to bring them closer to God.  The last thing you want is to be a nuisance in their life by repeating the same approach over and over again.  Write down when you ask someone to attend church with you, or when you offer a helpful book to read, or when you share your personal testimony.  Allow an appropriate amount of time to pass before you follow up or expand your effort.  Listen to unbelievers and respond with encouraging answers.  If you don’t have answers to their questions, let them know you will seek help from a trusted advisor and get back to them.  Follow through on that commitment without fail and keep the conversation going as best you can. Your best tool in this effort will be prayer.  Pray for their salvation and pray for your own guidance every step of the way.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

Mission Work

There are many evangelistic mission experiences available throughout the world.  Many churches have an ongoing missions program that includes trips designed to spread the gospel.  Find out how you can get involved and jump in with both feet.  There is no greater teacher than experience.  If you have a mentor assisting you on your path to discipleship, he/she will likely be able to guide you in this process.  Ideally, the two of you can participate together.  If you don’t have a mentor, your church pastor will certainly be able to help you get pointed in the right direction.  If there is nothing that appeals to you within your immediate contacts, simply do an online search for evangelical mission opportunities.  Find a mission program that works for you and do whatever is necessary to get involved.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Establish Your Own Mission Field

When you have reached a point of maturity in your evangelistic efforts, consider establishing your own mission field.  You don’t have to travel around the world to share the gospel.  Chances are there are many people within a mile of where you live who need to hear the gospel.  There are likely those seeking to know God, who are simply unaware of the steps to take, who would greatly appreciate your guidance.  Be innovative.  Develop a method to reach out to unbelievers that is specifically designed to work in your mission field.  Develop a method to gather together all those in your mission field who are actively seeking to know God and minister to them accordingly.  Be bold.  God has no limits and you are working on His behalf.  Anything is possible.

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”  Jeremiah 32:17 (NIV)

Discipleship Discipline Six

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

 

 

 

 

 

Discipleship Discipline Four

(I recommend you follow this study in order starting with Path to Discipleship.)

Christian Fellowship

The goal of Discipleship Discipline Four is to develop relationships with other believers, support other believers, seek support from other believers, and to develop strategies to do God’s work together with other believers.

Your relationship with others is what discipleship is all about.  In discipleship discipline one, we prepared our heart through worship and developed our relationship with Jesus Christ.  In discipleship discipline two, we worked our way deep into the pages of the Bible to uncover where our understanding is lacking, and fill in those gaps with diligent study.  In discipleship discipline three, we shored up and expanded our prayer life to better communicate with God.  Along the way, we should have been putting into action all the information gathered. Now it’s time to expand our connection to others in a more detailed way.

Maintaining Godly Relationships

Of course we respond differently to people depending on the amount of intimacy in our relationship.  We interact with our immediate family members differently than we interact with strangers at the local mall.  However there are some important common threads that will remain constant no matter who we encounter.  Our goal as disciples of Christ is to meet people where they are and provide understanding, encouragement, support, and guidance.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.”  Romans 12:14-16 (NIV)

The best way to accomplish this goal is by using a filter.  Imagine if you will, a bright white spot light – if a blue colored filter is lifted in front of the light, the white light becomes the color blue.  In this same way, we are to raise the filter of love in front of the light we are projecting toward everyone we come in contact with.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)

Relationship Accountability

For you to succeed in this effort, there must be some measure of accountability.  You can start with your family members.  Ask them to candidly tell you how you can improve your relationship with them.  Do the same with your close friends.  If you have a mentor working with you in your path to discipleship, ask your mentor to evaluate how you respond to others and offer advice on how you might better serve their needs.  This is not something you can do yourself.  You will need help.  If you don’t have a mentor, take a trusted friend along with you in a social situation and ask your friend to evaluate how you present yourself.  The more feedback you get, the better you will be able to adjust your demeanor to properly reflect the love of God.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

Be Patient

Every person you encounter has a life equally as complex as your own.  When you view their persona through the filter of love, you will set aside any unappreciated demeanor that may be present and allow them time to grow in knowledge and wisdom.  In so much as you have the ability to help, do so never expecting any more than the person in question is willing to give.  As God sees fit, your efforts will bear fruit or continue to develop as His plan unfolds.  In all cases, be patient and joyfully wait on the Lord.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)

Others First

As a disciple of Christ you put your own interest aside to serve others.  First and foremost you seek to serve and not be served.  Allow yourself to hear the noise coming from others above the noise coming from your own mind.  Look for ways to be supportive and encouraging.  Consider how a kind word brightens your day and pass that gift onto others.  In all you do, seek to provide a connection to the love of God to everyone you come in contact with.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV)

Forgive Your Enemies

Why people do the evil that they do is beyond your control.  As a disciple of Christ, you will need to have compassion for those who mistreat you as much as you do for those who love you.  It’s not always possible to apply this instruction in every situation.  You may face resistance that requires you to retreat and deliver your compassion through prayer.  If you are unable to provide help directly, you may be able to send help in some other form.  Don’t give up on those who are difficult to love.  Seek God’s guidance and continue to do everything in your power to share God’s love.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)

Build a Support Group

All of the above will be made easier if you employ a network of trusted supporters.  This may be in the form of a small group that meets weekly, or a string of individuals you regularly interact with.  In either case, these supporters need to be dedicated followers of Jesus Christ.  Together you can support each other in Bible study, prayer, and developing ways to serve God together by serving others.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”  Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

Discipleship Discipline Five

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Discipleship Discipline Three

(I recommend you follow this study in order starting with Path to Discipleship.)

Pray Without Ceasing

The goal of Discipleship Discipline Three is to develop a regular practice of prayer individually, one-on-on, and in groups.

Prayer is vitally important to your path to discipleship.  Prayer is your response to all that God is doing in your life and to His communication with you through the Word of God.  Your study of the Bible begins your conversation with God.  The Bible is the one and only place we have an absolutely reliable connection to God.  God speaks to you through His Word and you answer Him via prayer.  To be a true disciple of Christ, this conversation should never stop.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

Every moment of every day should be a continuous dialogue with God.  Everything good in your life has been provided by God, starting with your beating heart and your expanding and contracting lungs.  Every roadblock and trial that is placed in your path is a chance for you to lean on the power of the Holy Spirit working inside of you and seek God’s guidance.  Praise God for both the good and the difficult.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.”  Ecclesiastes 7:14 (NIV)

As a follower of Jesus Christ there is purpose to everything that happens.  When times are hard, seek answers in the pages of the Bible and through your communication with God in prayer.  There is no reason to tell God how difficult your pain is – He knows.  Instead, your conversation with God should focus on seeking His will and finding His path forward.

Pray with Others

Praying with others one-on-one and in groups should be a regular part of your communication with God.  Not only will your prayers with others expand the voices heard by God, it will also galvanize those present into a shared commitment to seek God’s guidance.  A common mistake made when praying in groups is speaking words meant for the ears of those listening rather than God.  Stay away from making statements in your corporate prayers designed specifically for those in the group to hear.  Prayer is a conversation with God and every word you utter should be directed to Him.

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”  Matthew 6:7 (NIV)

God knows your prayer before you even begin.  There is no need to go on and on with endless detail.  Get to the point.  Wait patiently for God to respond.  Spending some time in silence after you pray is a good way to demonstrate to God you are totally depending on Him.  Trust that He hears your prayer and listen to His response with an open mind – be ready to change direction if His answer indicates the need.

“Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool.”  Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 (NIV)

The Holy Spirit will assist You in Prayer

Keep in mind we do not always know what it is we are praying about.  We may be praying about our finances when God knows our finances are not the problem.  Our problem could be our lack of willingness to truly follow God’s direction.  This could indicate a problem with faith rather than finances.  God knows how to get to the root of your prayer and answer in a way that best serves His plan for your life.  God is fully aware of the larger context of your life here in this world and on through eternity.  A moment of pain in this life could be precisely what is needed to prepare you for a mission God has planned for you somewhere down the road. Speak to God in plain language and then be prepared for a completely unexpected response.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”  Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)

Prayer is Personal

Lots of books have been written about prayer but there is none better than the Bible.  Prayer is as individual as your fingerprints.  How you speak to your Father in heaven is completely dependent on who you are and what your relationship with Him is like.  No one can tell you how to pray – it is your personal choice.  If you’re confused about prayer, turn to the Word of God for guidance.  In the end, the best way to develop your ability to pray is to sit down in a quiet place with God and begin to talk to Him, with a clear understanding of who He is, and a humble understanding of who you are.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”  Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

Discipleship Discipline Four

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

 

 

 

 

Discipleship Discipline Two

(I recommend you follow this study in order starting with Path to Discipleship.)

Know God’s Word

The goal of Discipleship Discipline Two is to know where the Bible came from, whom it was written for, why we trust it, and to develop an ongoing study of the Bible with specific goals.

Building on Discipleship Discipline One

In Discipleship Discipline One, your mission was to find qualified Bible teachers to help guide you on your journey.  It’s important to have more than one Bible teacher because they don’t all agree and you’ll need to listen to them each carefully, then read your Bible, and ask God to direct you to the truth.  Your path to discipleship is not directed by your teachers or mentors, it is directed by God.  The role of your Bible teacher is to point you in the right direction.  Your role is to follow their instruction and the seek God’s wisdom in prayer.

In Discipleship Discipline One you were tasked with studying scripture that helps you know and understand who Jesus is, what He expects from you, and to develop your personal relationship with Him.  I don’t believe in a generic, one-size-fits all path to discipleship.  Precisely which sections of the Bible you need to study to achieve this goal is entirely up to you and your more mature Christian mentor, if you have one.  Your mentor should interview you, to find out what you already know, what you have already studied, and how your relationship with Jesus has developed thus far.  If you do not have a mentor, you will need to do this assessment yourself and then look for resources to fill in the gaps in your understanding.  You may start with an online search of the topics you wish to explore, which will lead to appropriate Bible sections to study, or books written by qualified Bible teachers that will open up new paths of discovery.

Where did the Bible Come From?

In Discipleship Discipline Two, you will need to expand your Bible study to include a study of the book itself.  To become a true disciple of Christ, you will need a solid foundation for why you believe what you believe.  To accomplish this goal you will need to look for respected sources outside of the Bible that chronicle where the Bible came from, who wrote it, and what was the purpose of each individual book.  Again, precisely how you pursue this goal will depend on what you already know and what sources you have already studied.  Seek guidance on how to fill in the gaps in your learning and never stop exploring new resources that will expand your knowledge.

The Bible Cover-to-Cover

Your path to discipleship should also include a systematic study of the whole Bible.  If you have not read the Bible from cover-to-cover, you need to develop a plan to accomplish that goal as soon as possible.  Understanding the Bible from beginning to end is critical to your overall instruction.  If you have already made a complete study of the Bible, you should consider doing it again from a new perspective.  Do some research and find a Bible teacher that can help you read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation with a deeper understanding than you already have.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide, we might have hope.”  Romans 15:4 (NIV)

Specific Bible Study

After completing your study of the Bible from cover-to-cover, and you feel confident you have a clear picture of the whole book, it’s time to focus on areas of the Bible that specifically speak to you. Ask your mentor to suggest areas of study that will speak to your heart in whatever season of life you currently reside.  If you have not yet found a mentor, you will need to do your own research to discover how best to proceed.  Carefully evaluate yourself and look for the biggest weakness in your connection to God or your understanding of the Bible.  Then do an online search for resources that point you to books of the Bible that will address those weaknesses.  Carefully reading those sections of the Bible will be your starting point, and then seek out books written by respected Bible teachers that will take your study to a deeper level.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

Put Your Bible Study to Work

As a disciple of Christ, your study of the history of the Bible, your overall study of the Bible as a whole, and your pinpoint study of Bible sections that pertain specifically to you, will be an ongoing part of your life from this point forward.  As pointed out in Discipleship Discipline One, study of the Bible is useless if not put to use.  If you buy a new device of any kind and then read the instructions, but never turn the device on and make use of it, what value does that device have?  That device is useless if you never turn it on.  Your study of the Bible is only your instruction manual – it is useless if you don’t turn in on.

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”  James 1:23-25 (NIV)

If you have been doing a lot of Bible study, a great way to put that knowledge and wisdom to work is to teach a small group or Bible study class.  It may be time for you to become someone’s mentor.  At a minimum, you need to take what you learn from your Bible study and put it to use in your daily life.  When the Bible speaks to you, make appropriate changes in your life that bring you into alignment with God’s will.  If you are able to memorize verses of the Bible that’s fantastic, but it is far more important that you are able to articulate precisely what those verses are teaching.  That precise understanding is what should be guiding your every step as you go through your day.  There is no reason to trust your natural instincts when you have the deeper understanding of God in your possession.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Discipleship Discipline Three

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.