Category Archives: discipline

7 Reasons Why You Need a Pathway for Discipleship

Although some churches do a wonderful job of discipling, I continue to be amazed at the number of churches that have no pathway for growth for their members to follow. Yet, we all know that spiritual growth is essential! And while we know that growth is a work of the Spirit, it is also healthy to have a plan to follow as you let Him do His work in you. I’ll share another time on how you can set this up, but for now, here are 7 reasons why you need a pathway for discipleship, both individually and collectively as a church:

  1. You are tempted to sin. Sin has been here for a long time, and temptation is not going to stop.
  2. You need a far off view. A big picture view is an important part of objectively tracking areas where you are growing and where you need to grow in.
  3. You are tempted to be passive. There are more tools for spiritual development than ever before, but there is a great irony that biblical illiteracy is so high. It is very easy for you to sit back and not get intentional with your spiritual growth.
  4. Accountability is needed. The rugged individualism of the American culture tends to shy away from accountability, but there are many passages in Scripture that call us to submitting to each other in Christ.
  5. You can avoid an unbalanced diet. Having a strategy for study will help you develop a healthy, balanced diet for discipleship and avoid doctrinal “hobby horses.”
  6. You’ll study topics and books that you might not normally study. It’s natural that we tend to avoid the areas we are unfamiliar with, but a properly implemented pathway will stretch you a bit.
  7. You can be humbled and challenged. You might see growth in some areas and a lack of growth in other areas of your life. This is a great opportunity for you to be further challenged!

Hope this helps. Next time, I will write on the “how” of creating a discipleship pathway.

Fran

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4 Lifehacks to Form Good Habits

I never got it. I tried and tried and tried to learn how to juggle, but I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It. photo-1502144696405-e84600828d73

For those of you who are able to do it, well good for you. But me, I just can’t seem to juggle anything- whether handkerchiefs, pins, or (gulp!) swords.  I’m told that to juggle, that it’s all about muscle control and concentration. Easier said than done, I guess.

I write this because there’s a spiritual application here. For example, I think that we all want to be healthy, effective, and God-glorifying in our lives. And to do that, we need to develop godly habits to help us to grow and stretch in our walk in Christ. Yet, I know, sometimes it’s like juggling, or spinning plates, or herding cats. It’s just hard.

But it’s not impossible. This is the time of year when New Year resolutions (remember those?) have long since been gone and guilt or denial has set in because we often missed the mark. It might have been goals spiritually, physically, socially, or something else, but it didn’t happen.

Now, I’m not writing this as a guilt trip but as an encouragement. You see, large goals cannot be done unless small, short term changes are made. I would even submit that this begins with your relationship with God, that it is to be growing and flourishing. Therefore, your time with God comes first, then the other areas can follow. When we are thankful for Christ and His goodness, then other things help work together as a way to worship him. Paul the Apostle wrote, for example, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).

So be thankful, and as you approach life with that in mind, consider these four lifehacks you might want to use to form good habits on a daily basis:

  1. Start with a quiet time. I know that this is difficult to maintain for some, but this is an essential to your day. There are some great resources available to you from LifeWay where you can go deep in your study. I even recommend using electronic resources such as the YouVersion Bible app, where you and a group of friends can go through short devotions together.
  2. Schedule exercise and log food. Your physical health is key to a happier, effective day. Put exercise in your calendar and stick to it, and log your meals on an app like Noom, MyFitnessPal, or another program. And by the way, some exercise (even 15-20 minutes) is better than no exercise.
  3. Keep track of your spending. Yep. That discipline is also important. I live by the 80-10-10 rule. I save 10 percent, give 10 percent (or more), and live on the 80 percent. I use apps to help me keep track of my spending and I try to watch where I am on an ongoing basis.
  4. Reevaluate your long term goals. You need to have goals in your life to remain on task. Whatever your goals are, write them down and revisit them every month on the same day. It’s a good thing to check your progress that your short term habits are going in the direction you want to go.

Most of all, have fun. Fun should come in whatever you do. When you have fun, you’ll be more relaxed, effective, and God glorifying. It doesn’t have to be a stressful set of tasks and it’s not impossible (like juggling is to me!). Try these and see what they can do for you. And if you have any other ideas, share them here.

In Christ,

Fran

The Breakfast of Champions

I had a friend who loved to say years ago that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” He was and is right- but to get good feedback is to become very, very vulnerable. In fact, it takes a good deal of humility to receive honest critiques of the state of things all around you, even about you. It’s common and natural, in fact, to be defensive when hearing some things that might even be less than desirable. This is because pride, ego, and even fear keeps us from hearing the sometimes painful truth. We shut it down because we don’t want to be brought down. 

However, Dr. Eric Geiger put it well when he wrote,

“Feedback fuels your leadership development. It helps you adjust what needs to be adjusted, builds confidence, and confirms areas of strength. Without feedback, your growth as a leader is stunted” (https://ericgeiger.com/2017/04/take-responsibility-for-your-own-feedback/).

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Basically put, you need feedback, and in fact, this only makes you better. Take one example from a sport that I love, baseball. A pitcher cannot possibly develop by only relying on his raw talent. He must be coached, analyzed, pushed, guided, and pushed even more. Those who respond to critiques from pitching coaches and more experienced players have a better chance of success. The best pitchers are the best listeners. Good feedback is how champions are built. 

Paul wrote in 1 Cor 9:24“Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize” (CSB). Strive to be better, run the race with all you got, and keep your eyes on Jesus. If it’s all about Him, then feedback from someone you trust only makes you better for an eternal purpose.

Until He comes,

Fran

Five Simple Tools For Planning Disciple Making in Your Church

I spend a lot of time talking and interacting with pastors. One of the most common issues that I run into is that pastors often are so busy with so many things, they often overlook one of the most important and fundamental aspects of what they do: making disciples of all people. I get it. There’s a ton of things to do on the front burner, and planning a comprehensive discipleship process takes time, work, and energy. However, there’s no more important thing a Church leader could do than to establish a strategy disciple making. I’m always available to visit Church in the Midwest, but here’s some great tools from LifeWay that can be useful for you as you plan your discipleship strategy for the fall and beyond:

  1. maxresdefaultThe Balanced Discipleship Wheel: this is a free tool that can help make sure that you are covering a wide variety of discipleship studies during the course of a year. Just click on one part of the wheel and it will take you to some of the studies that might be of interest. Best of all, it’s free!  www.lifeway.com/balanceddiscipleship
  2. Gospel Foundations: this brand new study is a foundational one year chronological exploration of the Bible for all ages. It comes with short, five to eight minute videos and is perfect for small groups or any other setting. It has 42 sessions during the course of the year to allow for off days and fellowship days. Released June 2018.  www.lifeway.com/GospelFoundations
  3. Disciples Path The Journey: ever want to take a new believer through the basics of the Christian faith, help train them in the essential doctrines, and then help them to become a fruit bearing disciple of Christ? Of course you have! This resource is designed to take a believer or a small group of believers on a journey through what it means to follow Jesus in a significant way. They’ll learn about the essentials, go through some doctrines found in Scripture, and then study about what it means to be on Mission. It’s a very inexpensive resource that could be used in a variety of settings. Here’s the link: https://www.lifeway.com/en/product-family/disciples-path/the-journey
  4. MinistryGrid.com: newly redesigned, this video training tool is for anyone who serves in a church. There are excellent courses designed for teachers, deacons, team leaders, greeters and more! There are plenty of free videos, including the training video on each week Sunday school lesson. Best of all, it’s mobile-friendly! If you are not using Ministry Grid, you’re missing out on a really good tool for your church. www.ministrygrid.com
  5. Smallgroup.com: ever wanted to study a particular text of Scripture or a topic for your small group? Then smallgroup.com is perfect for you! You can type in a text or a topic and one or more customizable Bible studies will show. The studies will include some exposition as well as a full teaching plan. Some of the studies even have video. This is not a “push play” shallow type bible study, but is a full study by a trusted resource that can take small groups to a new level of customization. It’s also perfect for churches that want to do a church-wide campaign on a particular  topic or text. There’s a free trial with it and the cost is very inexpensive on a monthly basis. www.smallgroup.com

Hope this is helpful. Again, if you live in the Midwest and want me to help consult with you on developing A discipleship strategy for your church, just let me know. I’m here to serve the church in her mission of making disciples!

Fran

3 Principles Learned from Nehemiah Today

I love the book of Nehemiah, not just for the leadership applications, but also for the chance to see how transforming God is in almost impossible situations.

During one of my devotions, I came across Nehemiah chapters 9 and 10 and saw some really spectacular things. In it, the people of God had been convicted about the fact that they had not walked according to the Word of God. They repented, and in so doing they emphatically proclaimed a change of heart:

“Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. While they stood in their places, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day and spent another fourth of the day in confession and worship of the Lord their God” (Neh 9:2-3).

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Basically put, their repentance was passionate, persistent, and on point. So what did Nehemiah have them do next? He made them write it down. They solidified their heart with their head and hands here. Here are some of the things that they agreed to:

  • Not to marry outside of Israel.
  • Not to do business on the Sabbath, even with outsiders.
  • Support the Levites.
  • Support the Temple sacrifices.
  • Give to the work of the Lord.

This is some amazing steps! Of course, we know that the people miss the mark on keeping their obligations, and some eventually get to the point of avid legalism. However, this is without a doubt a turning point for Israel.

So what can we learn from this? I see three things that we don’t want to miss:

  1. In God, your past has passed. While there is often the temptation to dwell in the past and stay focused on the sins which entangled you, the truth is that God is a forgiving, compassionate God. When you truly come to repentance, He has promised to forgive and cleanse, and never to leave nor forsake you.
  2. In God, your present can be a time of worship. Every moment with God is a moment that you can spend in worship to Him. Your new life in Him needs to start and end with an intimacy because of who He is as the amazing, wonderful Savior. Don’t forget that He is with you, even now.
  3. In God, your future is written. He has always known your tendencies, your motives, and your heart. God is the God of second chances, and He is the God who has planned your future. Be in prayer to see how He has impressed your heart, follow His leading, and enjoy a life in Him.

Israel spent generation after generation in disobedience to God’s commands and call to holiness. Yet, when they came to Him, He forgave and healed. It doesn’t matter how long you have rebelled and how bad it was, He can forgive you too! Take some time to seek Him as you commit to live a new life in Christ!

Fran

The God of the Possible

The fruit and potential of the land was amazing:

When they came to the Valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes, which was carried on a pole by two men. They also took some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut there.” Numbers 13:23‭-‬24 CSB

Now think about it: The vine of grapes was so big, two men had to carry it! The land was beautiful, rich, and flowing. The Lord had promised it, and He came through big! All they had to do was follow God and do His will. No enemy, no inhabitant would stop God’s will for His people. They simply had to take a step. A step of faith.

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But they didn’t. They forgot the God of the possible, and instead created a god of the impossible. They ignored His miraculous work of the past and looked at the obstacles before them. But seeking to save themselves, they lost it all. They made a horrible, deadly choice and in a business meeting, individual by individual voted a resounding, faithless “no.”

Their “no” would change some of them forever. All if that generation would never see the promises of God fulfilled. Death would follow them when they could have had life and loss abounded when they could have seen gain. Most of all, the chance for God to be glorified by all Israel would be delayed for 40 years.

Have you been voting “no” to God’s work in your life? Has God challenged you to step out in faith? A year ago, I did something that made no sense to people (still doesn’t) and God has amazed me as I have seen Him working in many places I visit. He gets the glory!

And so, let me encourage you to do the same, to walk by faith, to fear nothing, to step out…and let God get the glory!

Fran

Worship starts with Obedience

Then Samuel said: Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord ? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22 CSB

Saul fell into a trap. He wanted to pick and choose when he could obey God, mostly based on what was most convenient for him. But Samuel would have none of that. No sacrifice or external accolades could ever cover over the sin of disobedience. Nope, you might be able to fool people, but you can never fool God.

Samuel’s response is a key passage of scripture. God is not mocked, and He does not want false, fake worship and hypocrisy. He does not want our praise, especially public praise, if we are not obedient to Him.

He wants obedience, not sacrifice.

Partial obedience is 100% disobedience. Before you worship, be sure to examine yourself, seeking God in every area of your life.

God delights in this sort of self examination, and a humble heart for Him will result in a deeper, more intimate worship than you have ever experienced before!

Fran

Your Struggle Is Worth It

Are you having a tough time as of late? Join the club! Scripture is pretty clear that we have to struggle in life. And it doesn’t help when someone says something like, “Oh, God is trying to teach you something!” It’s almost like, “God, please teach me less then!” I get it, life can hurt and hurt a whole lot on this side of glory.

But let’s look at the benefits of the struggle. Like a butterfly flapping rapidly to pump blood into its new but shriveled wings once it exits the cocoon, growth can be tough, tiring, and even terrifying. Yet good things can come of it! Even more, when we are in God’s Word and applying God’s Word to our lives, allaof a sudden, our struggles make a bit more sense. It’s a process that God the Holy Spirit uses: We struggle, we pray, we read, we apply, we repent, we worship, we grow.

Here’s another example, the growth of Moses through the time line of the Scripture: Moses was a bumbling, stumbling fool, given to impulsiveness and stupidity which affected him for years. He killed a man and was forced to leave Egypt. He saw a burning bush and went up to see it (and was this a good idea?). When God first gave him the command to save His people, Moses balked and made excuses. But as he matured in the Lord, he went from being a man of “slow lips” (and needing Aaron to speak) to becoming a man who would speak out to Israel with his own God-empowered lips. It was a slow, steady growth in his discipleship, so much that when Aaron performed his own acts of stupidity, Moses was able to rebuke him, too.

And he was humble, so much that he was called the most humble man that ever was. This Moses, this proud, impulsive, even possibly arrogant Moses, became a man that God could use, a man who loved God’s people and rescued them from their enslavement. He struggled, yet God took him through it and did incredible things that glorified God and prepared the way for the Promised Land.

How about you? Are you struggling? I know it’s hard to hear, but God really might be teaching you something. He wants you to be wise in Him, to glorify His Son, and to serve Him to make His name known to all the earth. Get in His Word, worship Him in a community of believers, and let God work His will in you. ☺️

We struggle, we pray, we read, we apply, we repent, we worship, we grow.

Fran

Not of the past, of the future

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.” –Eph 1:7-10, CSB

There is a very clear trend today for people to somehow, someway, try to make themselves feel special. They get overly and outrageously dramatic, they get excessively emotional, abandoning logic, reason, and most importantly, the counsel of the Word of God. They attempt to be “snowflakes” of their own making, the centers of their own universe, where self and egotism reign and manipulation ensues. It’s the “me” generation on steroids, instantly publicized by social media.

Tough words, right? Well, then hear this: You are special. You are unique. However, you are NOT to be individuals of your own making but you are called His workmanship made for His glory (Eph 2:10). You might blow it, mess it up, and willingly sin, yet God knew this, loved the mess that you are, and set your feet on the rock. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, not to be a player on the stage of life in some drama, but to be a part of the great story that God brings to humanity. And when you get selfish and self centered for a moment, remember that Christ forgives the past, redeems the present, and promises a future in Him.

It’s time to take action, stop following the culture of the day and turn to Christ instead. Let His Word in, let His wisdom ring true, and let Christ change you to live not for yourself and your own life, but for the Almighty Creator and His will. He has always been at work, will you join Him?

Fran

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

Eph 1:13 (CSB), “In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed.”

Years ago, I came to Christ in a not too dramatic way. Simply put, I heard the gospel, I responded to the gospel, and I was changed by the gospel…slowly. What I mean is that it took time for me to grow and live in Christ, but He was patient with me! He brought godly people and even some circumstances to help me grow. But most of all, God brought me to the Word.

We are all called to the gospel to walk in Christ as an example to others (see Mt 5:16), but we all know that this is hard! Life, work, distractions, sin, flesh, etc. pull us away, but let me encourage you: don’t give up. As what Paul wrote, that you were called to Him, you were sealed in Him and you are already redeemed in Him. The Spirit is with you whenever you go, so trust Him to help you to walk in Him. Signed, sealed, and delivered, you are His! He who has called you is faithful to complete you until the Day of Christ.

Let that sink in as you struggle through whatever you are going through.

In Christ,

Pastor Fran