Years ago, the Lord convicted me of the need to develop authentic community and get back to discipleship models. So, we planted a church- The Bridge, which focused on developing small groups and creating an environment for discipling. Through this process I’ve come to a few conclusions. I’d like to share those conclusions with you in this blog.
Discipleship, in the Bible, looked like Jesus’ invitation— which resulted in a total commitment to following Him. Together the disciples learned, were challenged, encouraged, corrected- not only by instruction and communication but also through example.
Discipling in today’s culture looks a little different. We still teach, challenge, learn, encourage, and correct (this is not an exhaustive list) with others, but we do it intermittently. Let me explain; we have intentional meeting times, weekly or biweekly times that are created to foster this idea. Nobody follows a leader 24/7. And, we aren’t Jesus, either. But, when we meet with others for discipleship, we need to learn how to evaluate the process.
Sometimes, I find myself wanting more change, growth, and commitment for the individual than they themselves want. This can easily grow into a feeling of frustration. Or, we’ll hear others talk of wanting change in their life and wanting to follow Jesus’ instructions but with no effort or tangible commitment to the process. This is also problematic and our efforts become ineffective.
I often hold onto these individuals too long. I don’t like ceasing the discipleship process. But, it needs to happen to allow new opportunities to be presented. Ceasing the process isn’t abandoning a person, it is just admitting that maybe they aren’t ready at this point in their life to be discipled. I always like to make myself available whenever someone changes their mind and wants to embark on a discipleship journey.
Just like how you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make it drink, you cannot, as obvious as it sounds, force someone to learn. No matter how much time or intentionality you spend with that person, it won’t be well-received (I experienced this when I was in high school). You cannot force someone into willful action. Meaning, you cannot force someone to live a certain way. It has to come from within. There has to be a willingness.
We don’t always know the results of our efforts. But we do know that regeneration is done by the work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). We cannot do anything other than encourage, speak the truth, assess, and evaluate our efforts. We are called to share the gospel, make disciples, and lead by example.
Discipleship is hard work. It can be emotionally and spiritually draining. You invest in others and sometimes are taken advantage of, devalued, placated, or lied to. And we keep trying. But discipleship is what we’ve all been called to do. We are to be faithful to our Lord. We are to evaluate efforts and reach others. The Bible never instructs us to only do something if we feel like it, or have good experiences. It always instructs us to persevere.
There are many in the church today that want a gospel of grace and no responsibility. So we shouldn’t be surprised that we’ll encounter all types when trying to disciple. Be encouraged. You're fighting the good fight! Stay strong. Trust in the Lord. Persevere.
I generally like to challenge those in our life groups to operate outside of our comfort zones. We as a church (inclusive of all churches) often get too comfortable and forget that we are on a mission to share the Word of God and connect with others. So, after a life group member expressed their desire to coordinate two days to be in the nearby communities handing out scripture, we embraced it.
First, I’d like to say, the Word of God is powerful. It has been changing lives for years. It is the Living Word. It has the power to change lives; we are a walking testimony to that change. But if it has changed our own life, why wouldn’t we want to make it available to others for it to change their lives too?
After these past couple of days handing out scriptures in our communities, we reflected last night on all the gleanings from this coordinated event. Here is the list:
These are just some of the gleanings. I would encourage you, and your church, to seriously consider being active in the community you live in. The Lord has called us to do this and great things can happen while operating outside of our comfort zones. Let’s get outside of our comfort zones for Jesus. Let’s do it together!
If you live in Haldimand-Norfolk and are looking for a church that’s focused on connecting with others, discipling, sharing the Word, please message us. We’d love for you to join The Bridge family. We do life together.
I must admit, I’ve chosen to avoid this topic for quite some time. It wasn’t because I didn’t think this topic was valuable, but rather how transparent I was willing to be online. And, since being vulnerable (something we stress in our life groups) is important, I must follow my own advice.
I’m a hypochondriac. There, I said it. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as this:
unusual or excessive concern about your health : a tendency to fear or imagine that you have illnesses that you do not actually have.
For those of you reading this that cannot relate, I will try my best to explain.
Everyday, I woke up dying. Or so I thought. I then spent the rest of my day trying to talk myself out of whatever condition I was dying of that particular day. The slightest ache or pain often mentally manifested itself into some life threatening ailment. At the core of it, I suppose I had a fear of dying. I had a fear of leaving my family, friends, and everything known to me. I couldn’t wake up and enjoy the day. That was never my first thought. Well, until I found Jesus.
I found comfort and peace in Him. I began trusting His ways. I kept my focus on Him, not on me. See, the devil likes to consume you through what you fear. In my case, it was death and disease. I kept focusing on earthly concerns. I hadn’t set my sites high enough. But then I found these texts.
Luke 12:7- Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Colossians 3:2-4 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Philipians 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
2 Corinthians 5:12 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
These are just a few of the scriptures that helped me. There are many, many more in the Bible. Jesus is our hope, our guide, and Saviour. As soon as I took the focus off of me and put it on Him, my life changed. I don’t fear death anymore. In fact, death marks the arrival of my final destination. My life with Jesus. In His presence. No more suffering. No more pain. In all His glory.
2 Corinthians 10 states to take our thoughts captive. This implies that they go out first in order to be taken captive. And, whenever my thoughts get away from me, I remember to take them captive and trust in the Lord God Almighty and His promises to us.
Be encouraged, much can be overcome!
I have had many ask me how I can have faith in a God that can’t be seen. Aside from the relationship I have with God, and the work He has done directly in my life, I asked myself, “How can faith be a foreign concept to many?”
I mean, we board planes and travel to various destinations without hesitation. But, to me anyways, I have faith in how the plane was constructed. I have faith in the pilots that navigate it. I often don’t think twice about these things, but it still requires faith. We eat in restaurants and have faith in the proper food preparations. We have faith that the chefs don’t cross-contaminate the ingredients. That takes faith. We drive cars. That requires faith in production procedures and those assembling them. And, we visit doctors and put faith in their diagnosis or treatment. So, why is faith in God a foreign concept to many? If anything, my faith is stronger in God than it is in any of the above examples.
Faith and belief are closely connected. Is it possible to have faith without belief? I don’t think so. I believe the restaurant followers all food handling protocols and have faith that my meal will be fine. I believe the doctor is competent and have faith in his conclusions. I believe God to be real and have faith in His promises.
I don’t think faith is the problem. I think what we believe to be true is the issue for many. God wants a relationship with you. That requires belief and faith. And once you have entered into a relationship with Him, He will reveal truths. Knowing the Bible is one thing, but having a relationship with Jesus is another.
Belief and faith- neither one of these concepts are as foreign as one might think. So why not try it with God? He wants to hear from you! This decision will have eternal implications!
Let me just say- we all have an ‘A’ game. You know, that image or persona, we project to others about ourselves when we feel the need to impress. We’ve all done it- and many continue to still! For example, we bring our ‘A’ game to a job interview; we bring our ‘A’ game for that first date, or when we meet our “to be” in-laws for the first time! But, I’m not talking specifically about that, I’m referring to our ‘A’ game when we attend Sunday worship or small groups.
Nobody (sorry for the generalization), specifically portrays their ‘B’ game, or true self, at first. Or even over time. We strive to look good, not seem unintelligent or ignorant, and try to seem like those around us at that moment. This is damaging. So damaging, the church (the people), are given the image of hypocrites. Many people act one way during the week, then differently for Sunday worship, or at the small group they attend. People notice the differences.
God has created everyone unique. You are His creation! Embrace that uniqueness! Embrace it so much that your ‘B’ game is actually your ‘A’ game. In fact, don’t have an ‘A’ or ‘B’ game, just be yourself. Why am I writing about this? Let me briefly explain.
In our life groups, we see all types of people. Some are shy, some are outspoken, some are serious or funny, but all come to these life groups with their ‘A’ game. They don’t want to seem uneducated or misinformed. They want to seem like they have answers for all the questions. Here’s the truth. Our life groups really don’t soar in conversation until everyone lets their guard down. Until everyone learns to become vulnerable in learning, free to ask questions (yes, even if the question makes them seem uneducated). We don’t judge. In fact, if whatever the question being asked helps a person grow in their faith, we don’t care what it is!
Small groups can be hard. They can also be exciting, fun, and educational- all at the same time! When we get rid of our ‘A’ game mentality, and start being open and honest about ourselves, true growth happens. And often, open honesty inspires openness and honesty amongst others, which creates an atmosphere of community acceptance and learning.
If we live the way Jesus instructed us to live in the Bible (and yes, I’ll encourage you to research that!), we’ll see the need to only have one way to live—as the true representation of Him! When we start by being real with others, others will start being real with us. As important as this is for all of us, it is also very important for those leading. We represent our Lord and Saviour, let’s do it as accurately as possible!
As a parent, you try your hardest to shield your children from the mistakes you made when you were younger—and the consequences of those mistakes. Parents strive to provide their children a life of good choices and joy. We warn them about bad decisions and their consequences. We try to teach them life lessons and expect them to remember, and we get frustrated when they have bouts of ‘amnesia' when they seem to forget those previous teachings.
As a pastor, I often experience these same feelings. Pastors invest in others, we encourage others, we hear cries for change, and we hope those cries turn into lifestyle changes. We walk alongside individuals and silently watch as words don’t always equal actions. This is probably the most difficult part of discipling. And yes, discipling others is everyone’s responsibility, not just the pastor’s.
I often find myself wrestling with the tension on how to better connect with others, or how to find better ways to make teachings stick, so lessons can be used, not forgotten. How can I stress the importance of good choices as a Christ follower? How can I convey the importance of avoiding sinful actions, or even steering clear when temptation visits?
As these thoughts kept circling in my brain, a few things occurred to me. It was only when I was at my lowest point did change come about in my life. And the teachings given to me throughout my own life began to resurface in my memory. I also realized, I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t experience the many battles I had the privilege to fight. In reflection, God was never far away from me even though I might have seemed distant to Him.
What’s my point? We all hope for those life changing conversions for others. The conversions where people find Jesus, and drastically change their sinning ways immediately. But, these conversions are often few and far between. More often we witness a slow erosion of previous lifestyles as the Lord works in a person. The journey begins and slowly the actions begin aligning with the decision to follow Jesus. I must say, building a foundation on Jesus takes time. Working through questions, understanding the Bible, prayer and encouragement are all needed, and often need time to develop.
So, be encouraged. Don’t give up on anyone. They need you every step of the way. We are all on a different journey with the same destination. No two paths are exactly the same. And, we don’t know specifically what God is doing in anyone’s life at any specific time.
Just as with being a parent, it hurts when you are watching your child fall. It is inevitable, we can’t always protect them and they are going to experience pain. So although we cannot prevent it, the more important lesson for us is to be there for them when they need us the most- the recovery.
I recently heard someone mention that life is all good now because they accepted Jesus as their saviour and no longer have to worry about sin. I felt crushed. They hopped on the grace train and have no plans on looking back.
First, let me clarify something. Grace means unmerited favour. There is nothing we could ever do to qualify for the love God showed us through His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. And yes, we no longer have to worry about the consequences of sin once we entered into a relationship with Jesus. That consequence? Death. Death after life on earth, which means separation from God for eternity.
But, this decision to follow Jesus does not free us to live an agenda-free life. Nor does it mean we won’t sin anymore. It means we have work to do. It means that if we sin, we can now ask for forgiveness and try again. In fact, thinking we don't sin anymore and don’t have to worry about sinning, is sinful. Alan Hirsch explained it in one of his online recordings by saying that if we don’t teach the full gospel (constantly growing in our faith and making disciples) we’ve actually only taught a water-downed version of the gospel called ‘sin management’, or ‘fire insurance’- you pick the term you like best.
We are now to put on the full armour of God (Ephesians 6) and start sharing the full gospel message. If we no longer sin, why are we instructed to put on the armour? The helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the sandals of the gospel of peace, along with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. That’s a lot of armour to wear if making a decision to follow Jesus freed us from sinning, again. Ever wonder why godly men/women slowly erode in their ministry? Sin tempts. Sin keeps coming and coming, over and over again. We must be on guard!
We are still on the battlefield while on this side of heaven. And as long as you wake up, you are still in the fight! Put on that amour, stand strong, get into a community of believers that takes this seriously, or start a group to encourage each other in their walk. It is all about living a life of intentionality for Jesus. If you are advancing for Jesus, you will be attacked. You need to make sure you are wearing your armour.
Complacency is of no concern to Satan.
Be encouraged. Stay strong and focused on Jesus. Recruit others and make disciples. Band together. Soldier on.
I’ve talked about this at various times in our life groups. We often use the term ‘church’ in association with a building, someplace we go. I’ve used this term often when I was younger; “I’m going to church.” But, I think we’ve done ourselves a disservice by constantly referring to the church as a place. We do not go to a church, the church goes to a building.
1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 talk about being part of the body of Christ. It identifies that we are all part of the body, with different gifts and talents. It also instructs us to work together for Christ. This means we are all part of a living organism. It means that we are not confined to a building. Instead, it suggests the opposite! We are to be mobile, active in our faith wherever God has placed us.
Does this change anything? Absolutely! The gospel is meant to be shared through you wherever God has placed you. This includes social circles, work circles, family, and friends. We are to be on the move spreading the message of Jesus, the hope we have in Jesus. Our efforts shouldn’t be limited to opening doors of a building and waiting for people to come. We, a living organism in Christ, should be walking the streets, searching the alleys, sharing the message with everyone God has placed in our lives. Does it take courage? Yes. Yes it does! It takes courage, strength, and vulnerability. You will be judged by some. But, you will also reach others for Jesus!
People fear judgment. And rightfully so. Being judged is not fun. It hurts. But, I have been judged long before I made a commitment to Jesus. It doesn’t matter what you do or stand for, you will always be judged. I would rather stay true to the calling God has placed on our lives and judged by man than judged by God.
Be encouraged. Stay faithful to God. Share His message of hope, joy, and love. Our journey down here on earth is short compared to the eternal rewards promised to all of God’s faithful children in heaven! We are a living organism! Be on the move for Jesus!
I recently was given an electronic device to help me monitor my steps, caloric intake, exercise, and observe sleep patterns. And, since I began this blog entry, all of my family members have received these electronic devices as well! These devices are aids to help monitor your health, give real time data on how you're doing, help you set goals and try to achieve them. They also let you encourage other friends in achieving goals, and show you their progress.
I can’t help but think how a device like this could help us in our walk with Christ. I mean, real time assessment on how our journey is, wether we are meeting our goals, and adjust our journey before we get way off course. But, since we don’t have a device like this, we need to ‘kick it old school.’
Here are a few ways to monitor your walk with the Lord.
1- How often to you talk to God in prayer?
If you were raised like me, you would pray before and after every meal. That totals 6 times a day. Add in one time before bed, and you get 7. This is good, but not great. I often encourage our life group members to pray continually. Look at prayer as an open conversation that never ends. You can resume and pause multiple times a day. The more you talk to God the more you’ll want to talk to God!
2- How often do you read God’s word to you? (The Bible)
How often you read the word of God reflects where you are in your relationship with Him. His truths are in His word! His message for you is in His word! His guidance is in His word! And the knowledge He wants you to share with others is in His word! Get in His word. Be sure to stay connected to Him. He wants to talk to you!
3- Are you in community with others?
What is your support network like? Do you have one? It is important for followers of Christ to be in a community of believers for support, encouragement, amongst many other things. This journey requires support and interaction with others on the same journey. Trust me, you need to be in community!
4- When’s the last time you shared your faith or the message of Jesus with someone?
This can be a daunting task for some. But, this is something we can ask for help with from the Holy Spirit! Ask for opportunities to share your faith; ask for the words to say; ask for His help!
Even though there is a device out there that seems to make life simpler, these four ‘old school’ questions can help us gauge our relationship with Christ. And, there is no technology that can take the place of prayer, reading, sharing, and being in community!
These are just a few questions that can help you gauge your journey. We aren’t perfect, but we have a saviour that is! Our strength is in Him!
We are commanded, in Matthew 22:36-40, to first and foremost love God with all our being- mind, body, and soul. But, the second commandment tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Difficult? ABSOLUTELY!
My world was rocked when I found out that love and like are not synonymous. They don’t mean the same thing! Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to “like” everyone; but, we are instructed to love them. So what does this mean?
Well, over the years I’ve met many individuals that are difficult to like. There are many people who live lives that are morally, and ethically, different than mine. I might not agree with how they live their lives, how they treat people, and I might not even agree with how they treat their dog, but I am commanded to love them- not like them.
Everyone we see is portraying some type of image. It might be real, or it could be fake. Either way, the image they are portraying doesn’t necessarily reflect who they are inside. If they portray an image we don’t like, or wouldn’t reflect ourselves, that doesn’t change the fact that we are commanded to love them. If they behave in a way that isn’t in line with our own belief systems, we don’t have to like them (in fact, we may not like them because of how they behave) but we still have to love them.
I reconcile this commandment to love our neighbours to mean we should love the eternal soul everyone has. I love the heart of the person, not the image, action, or behaviour. And when I love, I love what that person is on the inside- NOT the image or actions being portrayed on the outside. But, this still doesn’t mean you have to like the person.
You may know friends, co-workers, or even family who are difficult to like. And that’s okay. But, I will encourage you to see the heart, the eternal soul and love them. Sometimes it means loving from a distance. Sometimes it means avoiding potentially harmful situations (certain family, friends, or work events) to avoid outright conflict, but we can do something to follow the commandment to love them.
Be sure to lift others up in prayer. Especially those that are difficult to like. Not to ask God to make them more likeable, but to allow God to show you how to love them!
From time to time, Rev D posts random thoughts about life as a Pastor and Servant of Christ. He has a unique perspective. Blog entries are posted randomly.