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Personal Symbolic Rituals: A Way to Inspire Stewardship & Surrender

February 5, 2013 3 comments

I have been reading a book by Pastor Edmund Chan, titled Cultivating Your Inner Life: Reflections on Spiritual Formation in Discipleship Today. The most recent chapter described features of “toxic spirituality” and one example was Rituals without Reality. In it, he discussed the value of rituals such as Communion & Baptism, but also some of his personal rituals. An example of a personal ritual is when he offers up his watch to God as he prays to represent his desire to steward his time to God’s glory. timex watch

I began reflecting on ways to enjoy prayer through symbolism, too. I thought about  items I own or see on a regular basis that represent something that is of great value to me. So far, I have thought of seven items and I hope that when I see them, I’ll be reminded to keep this value surrendered to Christ’s lordship.

  1. My wrist watch: This represents my time & schedule. I hope that seeing this during the day reminds me to steward my time in a godly way (Ephesians 5:17).
  2. My cellphone: This symbolizes both my speech & my relationships. I can be short & sharp with my words so I hope that pulling my phone out helps me to pray continually that I’d be a woman who “opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (prov. 31:25). Secondly, I want to value my relationships and steward them well, but not be controlled by them by needing the approval of others (Gal. 1:10).
  3. Photo of Danny in my wallet: I see this photo throughout the day and I want to remember that my marriage is of highest importance for it is what displays the gospel to the world (Eph. 5).
  4. My tennis shoes: To me, my shoes represent Vision & Enthusiasm/Passion. I want to be a woman who has a contagious energy about her. I want to continually walk with God and move forward in mission (Isaiah 50:5-7). nike
  5. A pocket mirror: This item brings my mind to 2 values. First, to the verses that describe Character, “Strength & dignity are her clothing” & “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (prov. 31:25,30)”. Second, it reminds me that God is enthralled by my beauty (ps. 45:11) especially because when he looks on me he sees a Bride, blameless & holy (Eph. 5).
  6. My writing pen: This symbolizes my thoughts and ideas. I am far too protective & prideful of them.I want to surrender my thoughts so that I will be obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), rather than being opinionated or insightful. This also inspires me to have protected time of just thinking, reflecting, and evaluating so that my inner self is at peace, not in chaos.
  7. Cash/ Debit card: My money represents my possessions. When I see this I want to ask God to steward my purchase to His glory, not just to my comfort.

For now, I just want to practice prayer when I see these items. But, maybe in the future I will symbolically lay them before Jesus when I see my hand (heart) is holding them a bit too tightly. Maybe for you, it is a textbook for your studies, a pacifier to symbolize parenting, a house key to represent your household/home. Whatever it is that you find precious, I challenge you to practice surrender and stewardship in that area. If you lead a smal group, it may be a neat idea to ask your members to bring in an item that they are wanting to steward well for God this year. Hopefully, this is a private, active way to help your mind release to the Lord what already belongs to Him.

 

God Values the Family

January 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Over the past few weeks God has been stirring in me a new value for the Family Unit. God started to solidify this value at Campus Outreach’s Christmas Conference in Jacksonville, FL. Two speakers briefly mentioned the family in their seminars.

Sandra Hearon spoke at the Women’s Rally on the topic of feminism. Using Deuteronomy 5:16 she explained that your family is who will still be around you when you’re old. She rebuked us softly in how we relate to our parents, siblings, and relatives. College students in America can focus so much on relationships with each other that we hardly fight to honor our family. And I thought to myself that the weak family relationships may be why even strong students of the faith struggle to walk with God so much after they graduate – they’re around people who hardly know them and visa verse. So, even if they have a desire to share and show Christ to their family, they can’t because their simply isn’t a common ground between them (if not even deeper unresolved family issues).

Then, Eric Mason gave a seminar that included different models of discipleship: (1)Air-strike -or classroom style, (2) Ground – or one-on-one discipleship, (3) The family, (4) Ministry teams, (5) a Christian community. When discussing the Family model he referred to Psalm 127 and recognized that this unit is the first ever discipleship community and is also the main place that discipleship takes place.

To, me this speaks VOLUMES. Here is what these truths should form in my life (and hopefully any Christian’s life):

1. I should take an active role in protecting the family unity because it is God’s plan for bringing redemption. With 1/2 marriages ending in divorces, with most people living together instead of choosing to be married, with pornography making its way into the family’s home, with promiscuity rampant amongst young singles, with fatherless homes, with gay rights activists uprooting the family design, with radical feminism destroying the value of selflessness, with the elderly not receiving visits or care from their children, with adultery, with grandparents raising grandchildren, abortion, and so on and so on…..ALL of this is a DIRECT offense to God’s plan of redemption through the family. So, find an organization to volunteer with, adopt a child, serve in the church nursery, babysit, receive church discipline, go to marriage counseling, have family meals together, be vulnerable and honest with your small group, consider homeschooling, develop a Christian worldview on these specific issues, etc. Find where you fit to help the family (not just your family).

2. I should aim to have a large family made up of many children! Psalm 127 says, “Behold children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are children of one’s youth, Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Can you imagine being in battle with only 2 or 3 arrows? Children are meant to be sent out into the world to “make disciples of all nations.” The Muslim community knows this. Islam is the largest religion in the world right now and a huge reason for that is because they have HUGE families! Christians are too conservative…we want things too controlled…too systematic. I’m not guaranteed that each child will come to Christ and live for him – but I can pray for them, train them, and release them into the world trusting in God’s power and redemptive purpose being fulfilled through my family.

3. Following #2, if possible, we must marry young enough to have children! Obviously, we aren’t all going to be married, nor will we all be married in our 20’s. BUT if God has introduced you to your future spouse don’t postpone marriage until after you have all your junk together such as a house, financial investments, a nice car, a good career, and the ideal magazine wedding. Yes, be responsible – but live by faith and trust that two is better than one. Keep in mind that if God has called you to marry someone, you’re being disobedient by not getting married.

4. Make the most of family time. Don’t be content with being near each other (geographically) and not emotionally or relationally. Some ideas: Be thoughtful about how time is spent when family visits, cultivate family traditions (especially for holidays), have fun together, have father-daughter dates, start learning to talk on deeper levels than just business matters, be the first one to apologize and repent. I don’t know, look up some good ideas on Pinterest :).

I hope that no matter what age you are and no matter what your current relationship status says, that this post inspires you to care about the family. And thus, I hope that you ask the Lord how YOU can serve and protect not just your family, but all of God’s families.

 

 

Multiply Movement: Review of the Gathering

November 12, 2012 1 comment

WOW! Talk about being charged and strengthened. Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love, and David Platt, author of Radical, joined together over the past year to start a movement that spurs on disciple-making. This weekend they hosted their first conference or “Gathering” in Birmingham, AL and San Fransisco, CA. Danny and I had a couple people over both nights to hear about their vision with Multiply.

I want to urge everyone to scurry around their website. Their podcast will still be available for the next 30 days so sit back, listen, and and let the Spirit move you towards being a disciple-maker.

Highlights from the Seminar

I really just want to highlight some great points and quotes from the conference in hopes that it will challenge you to join in on disciple-making – no matter what phase of life you are in!

  • This movement is not anti-church or anti-small group, but if those things are not leading to making disciples; we’re missing the whole point!
  • Discipleship is not doing Bible studies with other Christians!
  • To be a disciple of Jesus and to make disciples of Jesus is a command from Jesus himself. It is a big deal to disobey a command of Jesus, for he has all authority.
  • We make disciples because Jesus has all authority and therefore He is worthy of each person’s worship & praise!
  • Problem: Pastors say it is their job to just teach their people to go share. While, the church says that it is the pastor’s job to share the gospel. We are in a cycle of disobedience and must lay excuses aside and realize that we are all responsible for the Great Commission being fulfilled!
  • We must have a mindset that we receive in order to reproduce.
  • Unity is an outcome from being on mission with other people.
  • “Why did GOD supernaturally put His Spirit into you? (Each believer literally has God’s power inside him, WHOA!) To sit in a pew? To attend a worship service?”
  • Final Challenge: Make a list of whoever is in your sphere of influence who does not know Jesus or does not have vision for disciple-making. Then, share the gospel with them all in a pursuit to make 1 disciple this year.

Personal Confessions

Dear Jesus,

The past two months I’ve been more proud of advertising discipleship than actually doing discipleship. Please, make me an authentic disciple-maker; one who pursues and loves people no matter what my context is. Yes, keep me faithful to the campus. But, lead me to my neighbors, family, and other regulars in the coffee shop! I want to be intentional, not passive; I want to be courageous, not fearful; I want to be like Jesus, not religious.  Lead me to making a constant effort by prayer, word, and deed to make disciples for Jesus all over the world.

In the Lord Jesus’ name,

Amen

Little Victories & Fruit

October 23, 2012 Leave a comment

The other night, a friend and I went to a coffee shop together and talked for nearly 3 hours! It was soo refreshing. Something that I noticed to be a thread in our conversation was what I like to refer to as “little victories”. These victories are moments that we often overlook or take for granted, but in reality are a miracle that is happening by God’s power. I want to show that these moments are what many Christians neglect to call “fruit”.  I want to describe “little victories” to you and why it is so important for the Christian to recognize them as fruit, too.

What is Fruit?

The Bible refers to a Christian’s “fruit” or “fruitfulness” a number of times. Many are specifically referring to a strengthening in numbers or the physical condition of a place (i.e valley, field, etc). But, at times fruit is refereed to as evidence and also as a spiritual harvest.

Evidential & Evangelistic Fruit

An example of this is Philippians 1:22-24, “If I am to live in the flesh, that means a fruitful labor for me..to remain in my flesh is more necessary on your account.” In this passage, Paul is debating on which is better, life of death? Death is better for him, but his life is better for their sake, because his labor is considered “fruitful”. What was he laboring for? V25, “for (their) progress and joy in the faith, so that in (Paul they) may have ample cause to glory in Christ.” Their progress is what made the labor fruitful. So, this is an example of evangelistic, but also evidential fruit (fruit that shows proof of faith).”

Another, more clear, evidential fruit analogy is in John 15. In verse 5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” This whole passage clearly shows that a true, born again believer, will have fruit, or evidence, that he is in Christ. If you want to know more specifically what those evidences are I recommend searching for them in 1 John.

Fruitfulness is Not a Cookie-Cutter Experience

So, what does this “fruit” have to do with Little Victories? Well, fruitfulness can’t be judged in a cookie-cutter fashion. Each person progresses differently. For example, last year at a college campus there was a group of students reaching out to international students. Only one person became a Christian within a couple years of laboring and so many students were discouraged and thus determined that the international ministry was “unfruitful”. I disagreed with that.

Salvation is not the only fruit that exists. In fact, most times that the Bible talks about “fruit” it isn’t talking about a Salvation Experience. A fruitful moment can be when someone in your family, in your dorm, or at your work place goes from never discussing God to asking you to pray for them. It can be when someone confides in you what they really believe about the Bible. Or it can be when a person may confess sin to you, even if they still remain a non-Christian. Those are still a Little Victories or Fruit, because it is showing a movement towards Jesus.

An example that is not so much evangelistic, but evidential is when it occurs within a believer. I’ll use myself as an example. The way that I have been designed is very different from my old classmate and friend, “Jim”. I am very confident in myself if I’m having a theological & philosophical discussion in a small group or one-on-one. I used to think I was so bold in sharing the gospel and truth because of this gift. But, it did not take many philosophy courses in college to show me how much of a scardy-cat I am in a class size setting, without a plan, and with no opportunity to take back my words if I were to mess up. I can remember a number of times where I sat in disobedience because I would not open my mouth. Jim, however, was excellent with speaking up in class. He took advantage of that setting and really stood as my role model. Sharing truth one-on-one might not have been much of a challenge or victory for me, but when I spoke up about the gospel in class – that was fruit, that was a victory for me.

Not Just Jargon

My objective is not to change the way we use lingo. Not recognizing fruit in the smaller, more subtle ways can really crush a Christian’s spirit. If we fail to recognize and praise God over this kind of fruit we will encounter the following problems…

  1. We will give up too quickly on people. Yes, we want to move where the Spirit is moving when we are sharing the gospel. But, could the Spirit be moving in someone’s life and you aren’t recognizing it? What if someone is being pursued by Jesus and we say, “Eh, he’s just not interested because he didn’t come to the retreat.” or “I’ve shared the gospel a couple of times and she still hasn’t surrendered.” Look for little victories in this person’s life, before deciding to move forward.
  2. We will fail to recognize God’s grace in our life as a believer. Can you recall what God has been growing you in lately? What have you recently repented of? When was the last time you picked obedience to Jesus instead of something else? If we aren’t seeing God move in mighty, but quiet ways we will fail to see God’s faithfulness to conforming us to the image of his Son, Jesus.
  3. We will dive into self-righteousness or self-pity. Building off of #2, if we are not seeing God work we will either (1) see ourselves as the one working or (2) we will believe nothing is working.

Experiencing these three outcomes will drastically affect your marriage, relationships with believers, witness to the non-believer, and personal walk with God. Let’s make it a great aim of ours to see these Little Victories and worship God in response to them!

Prioritizing What’s Eternal

February 24, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m stepping into a new season of my life…marriage. It is an extremely joyful time, but adjustment is hard. I’ve had a hard time balancing everything that seems important. I haven’t felt like I’m doing too much, but rather I’m not doing anything very effectively. How do I prepare for a marriage, plan a wedding, graduate from college, disciple women, help lead a movement, and take joy in my schedule? I’m sure everyone could spout out a list of different things that seem pressing and important. Where is my time and energy going? Where should it go?

Last weekend I went to visit my fiancé. I stayed at a friend’s house and I saw on her kitchen counter a framed list. It was a Priority List. Wow, how simple. So, that morning I read my Bible and made my own priority list. Before I began, I asked the question, “What are the things that will have the most eternal impact?” Here is what I discovered…

1. Personal Worship of God and Devotion to God – Psalm 16:2 & Psalm 27:4

I want to live out of an “overflow”. I want my worship to fuel my service and duties. This looks like me protecting time in the Word and prayer every day. I want to enjoy God through fellowship (going deep with Christians) and sharing the gospel (because evangelism is going to nourish my soul Prov. 11:25). Attending church and worshiping through songs, tithing, and the teaching. And I want to trust God with a weekly Sabbath. For, “in Your presence there is fullness of joy”.

2. Marriage – Ephesians 5:31-32

Once married, Danny and I will be each other’s number one ministry. And the Bible tells me to do my husband good all the days of my life (Prov. 31:12)…and the days of my life began a long time ago! So, practically this looks like us talking daily, regular weekend visits, thoroughly completely the premarital counseling homework, reading “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller, reading blogs for budgeting, cooking, and other topics to help a marriage, doing well in my classes so I can transfer and graduate, being proactive in moving, and praying for my fiancé.

3. Discipleship – Matthew 28:19-20

Most fundamentally, this means that Kaitlyn, Emily, and Amiee have all of my time and attention when my first two priorities are not compromised. Also, this means that I am seeking to follow Laura and seeking out the other two women that I’m in a discipleship group with. So this means, one-on-one time with them, preparing for discipleship group, praying for them and with them, and giving them as much of my life as possible until I graduate because I believe they will reproduce their life and further God’s Kingdom. Within discipleship is evangelism – sharing the gospel in front and with my disciples is necessary for discipleship. After these things (if able), attending the Campus Outreach meetings, retreats, and other large events (however, always recruiting to them!).

Everything else comes after this!!!

These were my top three, most eternally rewarding priorities. If I aim to do well with these, I believe I’ve done my best. So far, it has been useful. I don’t feel guilty for not spending much time with tons of people, or missing an event, or not getting an A…because frankly, this is what it would look like for me to steward my time and energy well. As much as I want to do everything – and everything well – I can’t and in Christ that’s okay.

*If anyone wants to make their own priority list here’s some simple principles…

1. Focus on the eternal (God, God’s Word, and Souls of people)

2. Recognize the difference between urgent and important.

3. Know your personal limits and the season of life that you are in.

4. Schedule your time or someone else will do it for you.

5. Use your priority list when making your weekly schedule.

As Tim Keller has said, “Just do your best and relax.”