Archives For Discipleship

Disciplining yourself to do what you know is the right thing to do, at the right time, is a key to a flourishing relationship with God. How many times have you been tempted to do the wrong thing and, ignoring the warning bells going off inside, you give into the temptation? Every time we find ourselves at a decision point, we must ask ourselves how Jesus would decide in such a moment.

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When faced with a moral decision, the spirit of Christ within us informs us which way we should go. The problem is, the choice we know to be consistent with the character of Christ is often the more difficult path to walk. A narrow path is always more problematic to traverse than a wider one.

Disciplining yourself in the smaller choices of life builds your discipline muscle. When you get lazy in the little things, you stand no chance when facing the bigger issues coming your way. For example, we know we should put God first in all things, but how many of us live this out? How often do we wake in the morning, late again, only to rush out of the house without giving hardly a thought to Jesus? Or how many of us take the first portion of our paycheck and give it away to those in need before we pay our own bills? This is nothing but lip-service commitment, and the reason we fail is because we haven’t built the disciplines that will cause our life to reflect our convictions.

If we want to draw closer to God, we’re going to need to live lives that look more like His. If we don’t know Him, how can we expect to live a life worthy of Him? We’re going to need to get close, and achieving this requires establishing some disciplines in our lives which will reflect His character and priorities. Every habit, good or bad, will dictate the course of your life. Let me show you how this plays out in my own life.

When I neglect the habit of beginning my day in prayer, I tend to also disregard my workout routine. When I don’t exercise, I tend not to eat as healthy. When I don’t eat well, I have less patience with others, and less critical thinking skills to deal with what comes my way. When I have a dreadful day, I tend to continue not eating so well when I get home, which means I don’t sleep well. If I don’t sleep well, what do you suppose the odds are I’m going to get up early the next morning to pray? And the cycle begins again…

All of this could have been avoided simply by disciplining myself to begin my day in prayer. It’s a simple and easy thing to do. But we must never forget, what is easy to do is also easy not to do. Disciplining yourself is both easy and difficult. It is easy in that anyone can do it; no exceptional skills are required. It is difficult because it will require you to put Jesus first, and yourself second (or perhaps third or fourth). Most aren’t willing to do this; they would rather enjoy life now and hope for the best later. Disciples of Jesus are a different breed. We are willing to sacrifice short-lived enjoyment in exchange for an eternity with our Creator. Are you willing to begin disciplining yourself, or will you be content with the way things are? Your decision will dictate your future.

Being a disciple of Jesus should cost you something. If it isn’t, chances are you aren’t a disciple. It’s easy to assume you are a disciple of Jesus once you say the magic prayer and invite Him into your life. While such an assumption is safe and comfortable, it isn’t reality. Rather than frightening us, we should all be encouraged to pay whatever price necessary for the privilege of following Jesus.

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A.W. Tozer once prayed the Lord would make him “willing to let my Christian experience and Christian standards cost me something right down to the last gasp.” Tozer understood being a disciple of Jesus would cost him something in this life. What is discipleship costing you?

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Recently I’ve had the frustrating experience of trying to get three of the largest churches in my city to come around a family in need. The situation at hand is a low-income single mother with six children, whose minivan was recently involved in an accident and totaled. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. One church never responded, one said they get too many requests to be able to help but did ask what my own church was doing about the situation, and the final church – the one I attend and have been financially supporting – responded they only helped with rent and utility bills and would not be able to contribute towards purchasing a vehicle for the family.

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Being a preacher’s kid, I understand the inner workings and dynamics of a church better than most, but I was still left flabbergasted by the lack of assistance these local churches were willing to extend.

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I’ve got a problem and no idea how to solve it. I’m bored with everything but Jesus. As my relationship with Him has developed, I increasingly find myself growing out of other interests. When I’m spending time talking with Him, studying Him, or simply reflecting on Him, I am content. Nothing else satisfies any more.

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Now, a quick disclaimer: I am not in any way saying I spend all my time focused on Jesus or implying I have transcended sin and temptation. I still fall. A lot. It’s a frustrating, but true, dichotomy in my life. Having said that, the fact remains I’ve become bored with everything but Jesus.

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Few would admit it, but what most people want is a comfortable relationship with Jesus. We want answered prayers, help through troubled times, and comfort in crisis. Oh, and spending eternity in Heaven while escaping Hell, we want that too. Those are the comfortable benefits making Jesus so desirable to us, after all. Here’s where it gets a little uncomfortable. Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time talking up those benefits. He spent most of His time warning of trials and persecution, and giving stern warnings to those seeking to live a comfortable “religious” life.

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His harshest words were reserved for people just like us… those who were trying please God through comfortable and often self-serving platitudes. Comfortable Christianity is synonymous with Pharisaical living.

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We all worship something. It’s how we were created. Whether we realize it or not, we are worshippers. The only question is what, or who, is it we are worshipping? Saying we worship something or someone other than God is an uncomfortable admission. We don’t want to believe we worship unworthy objects.

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Many people and things will demand our worship, but only God is worthy of it. In fact, he demands we worship only Him. This goes all the way back to the Ten Commandments. Somehow, thousands of years later, we still haven’t been able to honor what He requires.

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Are you available to be used by God? Before you answer, understand when God looks for an available person, He is looking for 100% availability.  Being half-committed isn’t committed at all. God is constantly seeking those who have left everything behind, taken up their cross, and declared their availability for the sake of the Kingdom.

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It’s easy to say we’re available for His service. It’s much harder to actually live an available life. A disciple of Jesus is available for anything at any time. Disciples don’t weigh the cost or try to see all the angles before answering the call. They simply proclaim their availability, and move the moment they are called.

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I’ll admit it. I’m desperate. Contrary to what you may be thinking, I think it’s a good thing. While desperation usually carries a somewhat negative connotation, I believe it’s a necessity for would-be disciples of Jesus. Until we come to the point where Jesus is the only thing of value to us, I question whether we are full-fledged disciples of His.

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Desperation may in fact be the key to living a life that looks like Jesus. Chances are, if we aren’t desperate for Him, we’re probably desperate for something or someone other than Him.

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Almost forty years ago, Keith Green recorded a song called, “Make My Life a Prayer to You”. While we could argue about how well the music has held up over time, the lyrics are timeless. “Make my life a prayer to you / I wanna do what you want me to / No empty words and no white lies / No token prayers no compromise”.

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What if we lived our lives as if they were prayers to Jesus? What if we kept Him the center of our focus in every moment we lived? Shouldn’t we all desire to live with no token prayers and no compromise? After all, this is the life Jesus called us to live.

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Complacency is a killer disease for would-be disciples. As soon as you think you are in a great place with your disciplines and in your relationship with God, you are in trouble. Unfortunately, I have learned this (more than once) the hard way. Each time I think I’ve grown so close to Christ I could never fall away, I’ve quickly found myself spiraling downward. It’s not as if you wake up one day and decide to walk the opposite direction.

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It always happens subtlety and slowly. You won’t even recognize it’s happening. You skip your morning prayer time, “just today”, because of something else going on in your life. Then you find yourself putting your needs ahead of others. The next morning you skip prayer time again. And so, the spiral begins…

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