On My Mind and Heart: Discipleship 101

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The past couple of weeks the terms “disciple” and “discipleship” keep showing up in my life – in conversations, sermons and my Bible reading.  And, one of the common themes of discussion is usually about “how to disciple” someone.  Over the years, that’s a question that I’ve learned is both hard and easy to answer.  It’s hard, not because the process is really that difficult, but because to “disciple” someone well means we have to sacrifice.  And, if we are honest, that can be hard for all of us sometimes.   But, since “making disciples” is THE COMMISSION given to us in scripture, I think we should all be more prepared to accomplish this Kingdom task.

So, here is an easy 3 step guide to Discipleship 101 to help get you started:

Discipleship takes time.

I said discipleship means that we have to sacrifice and there is often no thing more difficult for us to sacrifice than our time.  We are busy people with lots to do.  But, it is impossible to be a “teacher” to someone else (which is what discipling largely is) without spending time with them.  To disciple well you have to spend regular time with another person talking, studying, telling stories, and praying.  There is no substitute for being together.

Discipleship means knowing your limits.

Several years ago I was in a small group pastors’ training session with Pastor Andy Stanley when I learned something that’s continued to stick with me when I disciple someone.  Speaking of the limits of discipleship responsibility, Andy said, “It’s not your responsibility to fill someone else’s cup. But it is your responsibility to empty your cup into the person whom you are discipling.”  That makes so much sense!  I can never be everything that someone else needs to grow spiritually, as a leader, as a man or as a person.  And that burden is not mine to bear.  However, I can be open, honest and willing to empty myself, my experiences, my prayers and my heart to another so that he may grow from my experiences and encouragement.

Discipleship requires knowing the Truth.

It’s not enough to just spend time with someone and give them a bunch of advice.  True discipleship means helping to train someone in their spiritual growth as a Christian.  And that means knowing the Truth of the Gospel and speaking the Truth of the Gospel.  Jesus Christ is the guide and the model to whom we are aspiring (not the latest leadership or self-help guru or life coach).  That means reading and studying the Bible – together.  That means relying on the Word of God instead of your own “feelings” or “instinct” to guide thoughts, actions and decisions.  Discipling well requires that we use the Truth as our standard, nothing else and nothing less.

Marriage Matters: Love Geography

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“Love Geography”

note:  These are my sermon “notes” from this Sunday’s message.  (They are notes, I haven’t written this as an article so please excuse the abbreviated words and sentences.  To get the most out of this message, please go to the Adventure Church website and listen to the audio).  You also can read my notes from the first message:  What If I’m Not Married?

If you were going to place your marriage on the “Love Map”, where would it be right now?

The Beach? (honeymoon feeling, a party, everything’s perfect)

On a Mountain Top? (things are going fantastic, we are super blessed, great things are happening to us and our family)

In a Valley? (things are going poorly, something’s wrong, we are arguing often, life is a struggle being married to this person)

In the Grand Canyon? (there is a crisis, someone is having an affair – physically or emotionally, divorce seems like the best option)

On the vast and fertile Plains? (life is good, there is nothing that is dramatically exciting but neither are there any serious problems, day-to-day we are generally content, our children are doing well, we rarely argue and when we do it’s not a knock-down drag-out fight, or, if it is one, we apologize quickly and move on) (note:  most of marriage is going to be in the Plains)

In the Desert? (life was good, but for some reason our relationship is dry and generally lifeless, we are missing nourishment and refreshment, days are hot and difficult, nights are cold and distant)

In the middle of a busy City? (we are very busy, everywhere we turn there is something to do and another responsibility, our kids keep our schedules full and we are running non-stop)

Where are you?  and  Why does it matter?

note:  Marriage is a journey and a destination.  You can probably see your marriage in one of these geographical locations (and can surely remember some times when you were in another location).  Where we are in the journey, and how to navigate the journey matters because:  God presents Himself to us in the marriage relationship (husband to wife, and wife to husband).  He also presents Himself through our marriage to others:  our children, our friends, our church and the world.  Marriage is a means by which we experience God and His grace.

How do we navigate the journey of marriage?  Here are some travel tips:

See the Whole Map

(note: we tend to only see where we are right now and fail to see all that marriage can, and does, bring.  It is important for our marital health and the success of our journey to see the big picture of marriage by seeing the whole map).

It’s not Unusual – remember that where we are is not unusual.  All marriages travel through different locations, and most, at one time or another, will travel through every location.  You are not the first to be in your current situation and you will not be the last.

It’s not Permanent – Your situation won’t last forever.  Circumstances change.  We change.  God changes us and others.

It requires Commitment – Mark 10:9 “What  God has joined together, let man not separate.” – note:  The way to successfully and joyfully navigate the marriage journey is to recognize that you have made a commitment to each other and to God as well.  Commitment is being willing to stay through the difficult times (desert, valley and canyon) even when it’s not enjoyable, in large part because you know that the plains and mountains are there to be experienced.

Recognize Where You Are

It takes Communication

Truth Telling CommunicationEphesians 4:25 “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

Gentle, Non-Advesarial CommunicationEphesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Reflect on How You Got There

note:  good or bad, it’s important for us to notice how we got to where we are.  When we take notice of such things we will see patterns of:  being in the Word (or not), being in community (or not) (especially accountability), serving others (or not).

It takes Examination2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?”

It takes ConfessionJames 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

note:  confession isn’t easy or fun.  but, confession removes the “splinter” from our souls that is festering and hurting (maybe not all of the time, but it keeps showing up).

Pack Correctly

note:  on the journey of marriage, we must “pack” with us the right things.  Here are a few things to make sure we pack:

Patience“Love is patient” note:  it can take a while to get out of a valley or through a desert.  It can take a while to learn how to climb a mountain to the top.

Sacrifice“Love is not self-seeking”  note: your marriage should be about the other person, giving 100% and expecting nothing.  (when we do that, we are all more blessed in the end).

Forgiveness“Love is not easily angered, Love keeps no record of wrongs”  (we forgive even before forgiveness is sought and definitely before forgiveness is earned, if ever.  that’s what Jesus did for us on the cross – He forgave us before we repented!)

Remember the True Destination!

note:  the true destination:  Your marriage is not as much for you as it is for others.  Marriage is meant to be a representation to the world of the relationship that exists between Jesus and His Church.  It is:  unconditional love, sacrificing, forgiving, patient, etc.