Ordinary Discipleship

18
Nov

Family

Use this holiday season to sincerely encourage and praise your family. Look for opportunities to thank them for how they make your life more meaningful. Incorporate these “holiday practices” into your non-holiday life and record how the dynamics of your family change.

Digging deeper:

Genesis 2:18; 37; Ecclesiastes 4:8-10; Acts 2:44-47; 2 Thessalonians 1:2-4; 1 Timothy 5:8

11
Nov

The God of Elijah

What does you God look like? If someone asked you to describe the God you worship, what would you say? What words would you use to describe your personal perception of who God is. Someone once said that “What you think about God says a lot about you.” What does your description of God say about you.

Now, let’s look at the God of Elijah. Elijah was a prophet of God. He lived in a time where people were running after any idol that could possibly bring them hope and happiness. In Elijah’s time, that was definitely the case, and a big part of the problem. The reigning king of Israel, Ahab, had married a foreign woman, Jezebel who convinced Ahab and subsequently the Jewish people that she had a better god-option, Baal. The people thought, “well, if one God is good, two are even better!”

This is where Elijah comes in: Because of his unwavering loyalty to the one true God of Israel he is hated by Jezebel and Ahab, but that does not stop Elijah from fighting for what he believes. His recorded interactions with the people of Israel and the worshippers of Baal demonstrate to the people of that day and to us that the God we serve is one who cares. He is one who provides and protects. He did not create us to be His slaves but desires a relationship with us.

Is this the God you serve? If not, check out what the scriptures have to say about the God of Elijah and see if it changes your perspective.

Digging deeper: 1 Kings 17:7-24; 18:16-46

Do something about it: When reading the Old Testament, we sometimes tend to focus on the harsh or judgmental aspects of God, but this week, take time to read those stories again. Read them with the knowledge that God does not change (“He is the same yesterday, today and forever”). If He does not change, then this is the same God who chose to become one of us and sacrifice Himself so that we might be saved. His sacrificial act paid the price so that the sin that separated us from a loving God would no longer be a barrier to a personal relationship with the creator of the universe. See how reading it with that knowledge in mind expands your understanding of who “the God you serve” is.

28
Oct

Stop Looking at Your Neighbor’s Blessings and Look at Your Own

Have you ever thought about how much time we spend looking left and right at what others have? It really is not difficult to do. We have been trained to focus on what we do not have instead of being grateful for the blessings we have. Just look at advertising: It is geared toward reminding us of what we do not have and convince us that we need it. Social media also presents a seemingly unending litany of “look what I have” themed posts that make us envious of places we have never been or things we do not possess.

Now, take a moment to concentrate on what you do have that you are thankful for. When we stop looking around and begin looking up and in, we regain a sense of just how blessed we are. We begin to see that God is working in our lives and that He truly does care for us. The satisfaction that comes with knowing that God has promised to provide everything we “need” should be enough to adjust our attitudes and help us find the “joy” that God promises. When we remember all that God has done for us and given us, we become more available for God to use and more satisfied with life as God has provided it.

Digging deeper:

Psalm 67; Ephesians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:4; 9:11; Matthew 5:3-10

Do something about it:

Establish a regular time with God and begin each time with specifically thanking God for the blessings that are in your life.

21
Oct

Not Their Likes, but His Love

How would our life be different if we stopped worrying about what others thought with regard to what we say and do? The practice of basing our personal value on the opinion of others seems to be ingrained into us at a very early age. Nurture plays a huge role and our assessment of ourselves. Wouldn’t it be great if we based our personal worth on the opinion of the most important influence in our lives and that influencer was willing to overlook our shortcomings? Wouldn’t it be awesome if this most important person considered us so valuable that they would die for us?
Well, we are in luck! The God we serve considers us “a chosen people,(A) a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” Jesus, the ultimate influencer in our lives, chose to become one of us so that He could restore our broken relationship with God. He died for us so that the things that blocked us from truly understanding who we are (sin and selfishness) would be forgiven and erased. We could become a “new creation”, blameless and perfect in God’s eyes.
How do we accept and apply this new understanding? Stop chasing their likes and look to His love to feed, fill, satisfy, and truly make us whole.

Digging deeper:

Psalm 139:14; Isaiah 43:1; Luke 12:6-7; John 10:10; Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 john 3:1

Do something about it:

Spend time in God’s Word. Take time to look up each of the verses above and read the context around them. Look for other stories and passages that talk about God’s great love for us. In your prayer time, thank God for choosing you and ask Him to help you to truly see yourself as He sees you. Pick a favorite, “God loves me” verse and display it in a prominent place to remind you, each day that you are not only loved, but valuable enough to die for.

14
Oct

Addicted to Likes: Obsessive Comparison Disorder

Are you obsessed with what people think of you? Do you assess your personal value based on whether you are keeping up with the Jones’ or by how many likes you get for a Facebook post? Those external assessment tools can be such a slippery slope because they, more often than not, drains you of the joy and perspective God has made each of us to enjoy. If we switched our criteria and used the opinions of those who know us best, we would have to look to the one who created us. When we do that we see that we were and still are so valuable that God would choose to die for us. We are so worthy that God wants to have a personal relationship with us. We are so loved that God is willing to look past our faults and shortcomings and welcome us as His beloved children. Isn’t it time we stopped letting our possession, appearance and friends/family define who we are. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Digging deeper:
Genesis 3:1-7; Psalm 139:1-16; John 3:16; 8:44; 10:10; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Peter 2:9

Do something about it:
Spend so time in God’s Word. Do a word search on “God’s love.” Find a verse that really describes how God feels about you and post it somewhere you look, everyday. Read it out loud each day and remind yourself that you were worth dying for.

07
Oct

Feed Me: Worship

The word “worship” has become a buzzword in the Christian church. We attend worship. We listen to worship. We’ll say that worship was great some days, or that worship was off on others. We may consider that worship is just a Sunday thing. But that’s not what we see in scripture! It isn’t about music. It’s not about a group of people. It’s not a place that we go, or a service that we attend. Worship is a verb. It’s a response. In fact, worship is a response that affects every aspect of our daily lives.

This word “response” infers that it doesn’t begin with us! To respond to something, means that there was an action taken by something or someone outside of the one responding, first. In other words, in order to have a response, there first had to be an outside stimulus! So, worship is our response to four things: 1) who God is, 2) what God has done, 3) what God is doing in our lives, today, and (4) what God is going to do for us.

As we better understand the nature of God (that he is all-powerful, yet humble – even dangerous, yet full of grace and love), the more we respond in true worship to who he is. As we better understand the Gospel (the gift of Jesus Christ the Word, fully man and fully God), the more we respond in true worship to what he has done for us. The more in tune with realizing the work God has done, the more observant we are in seeing what He is doing in our lives, today. Finally, the more we understand the eternal hope that we have for the future (that Christ will return and will not leave us in our current state), the more we respond in true worship to what God is going to do for us.

Digging deeper:

Isaiah 40:28-31; Psalm 19:1-4; Psalm 100; John 1; 4:24; Philippians 2:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15; Romans 1:20;

Do something about it:

(1) Take a closer look at the every day things you do and ask God to point out opportunities for worship. (2) Expand your idea of worship, by taking time to recognize what God has done in his creation around you. (3) In response to who God is, what He has done for you, and because of the promise of what he is going to do for you, find time to READ, PRAY, FAST, SERVE and in all of this, truly Worship our Creator.

30
Sep

Feed Me: Serve

When you think of the term “service” what do you see? Does the picture of menial, low status and laborious activity come to mind? For many, service is something we have to or should do, but it is not necessarily what we want to do. Because it seems to banish us to the unimportant and mundane we tend to think that our participation in such activities lowers our status.

Ironically, some of the great thinkers and theologians have a different perspective. Richard Foster writes, “Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial. It empowers us to say ‘no’ to the world’s games of promotion and authority. It abolishes our need/desire for a ‘pecking order.’” Jesus himself taught his disciples that, “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, (B)  and the one who rules like the one who serves, just as  (W) the Son of Man  (X) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His  [n] life a ransom for many.”
The irony or these quotes is that they seem to be telling us that there is great benefit and even unsolicited status and reward that go along with an act of selfless service. That seems counterintuitive to what the world teaches but directly in line with what our faith teaches. The question is, “Which do you choose to believe?” Maybe the can be found by taking a step of faith and looking for the opportunities to serve at home, at work, and even in your neighborhood. You might find that it moves from something you should do to something you want and need to do.

Do something about it:
(1) Take a closer look at the every day things you encounter and ask God to point our opportunities to serve. (2) Expanding your idea of service to include: guarding the reputation of others (cut back on gossip), put pride aside and allow someone to serve you, actively seek to show common courtesy and hospitality, take time to truly listen to others, and when given the opportunity to help directly, consider how you can help bear someone else’s burdens.

Digging deeper: Matthew 20:20-28; Luke 6:38; John 13:5-20; Romans 12:1,2; 9-13; 1 Peter 4:7-11

23
Sep

Feed Me: Fast

In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of pizza temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step. Why would anyone want to abstain from food unless it was for health purposes or for losing weight?

If we were truly made in the image of God, then we must believe that He made our bodies to need and even desire food. If that is the case, then fasting would not only seem counter-intuitive, but unhealthy, unless there is another, more important reason to fast.

A good place to start is the Bible. In it we see record that fasting is a frequently mentioned practice. It was not only oft-mentioned, but regularly practiced by Biblical pillars like Moses, Elijah, Esther and Paul. Even Jesus, God-incarnate, not only encouraged it, He also practiced it. If God Himself considered it important than why don’t we? If our Savior and Lord encouraged His disciples to practice it, then it must be important. It must have spiritual benefits that supersede health and diet. Understanding that we are not only physical beings, but we are also spiritual beings, made in the image of God. Because of that we not only need to feed the physical part of us, we also need to feed the spiritual part. How are you feeding your spiritual body? Could fasting be another way of doing just that?

Do something about it:

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). If fasting is something we want to know more about, what better way to understand it than to take a step of faith and practice it? Set aside a time when you can safely abstain from food and drink (other than water) and ask God to teach you why fasting is an important part of your spiritual journey.

Digging deeper:

Daniel 9, Luke 4:1-13; Matthew 6:16-18; 9:14-17; 17:20-22; Acts 13:1-3; 14:19-23

16
Sep

Feed Me: Pray

Scripture is the most concrete source of spiritual food for us, but prayer may be the most central source of nourishment. We’re not born knowing how to pray, so be free of the burdensome expectation that you should be able to sit down and pray for 4 hours. Prayer in it’s most basic sense is direct communication with God. What we forget is that good communication has to be two-way. It has to be as much about listening as it is sharing. The deepening of any relationship begins with clear, honest, two-way communication.

One key benefit of prayer is that you put yourself in a place to receive the gift of God’s grace. This is the broader purpose of all disciplines, and the specific purpose of prayer: it puts us in contact with the Giver of Grace in such a way that our hearts and wills begin to be transformed. It starts with the small and gradually grows larger in effect. Don’t’ begin with expectations of moving mountains; begin with expecting to listen, hear and be transformed.

Do something about it:

We’re not born knowing how to pray, so be free of the burdensome expectation that you should be able to sit down and pray for 4 hours. Start with 4 minutes. Put yourself in a place to receive the gift of God’s grace. Remember that prayer is “communication.” Good communication has to be two-way, so consider setting aside time to just be quiet and listen to what God has to say to you.

Digging deeper:

Daniel 9:1-9; 2 Corinthians 3:6 (also see pages 2,3)

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