Category Archives: discipleship
Orphans in Your Heart
I have a friend on fire for adopting orphans. He once shared his frustration about many orphan relief efforts like building orphanages, wells, and feeding orphans. “Give the kid a place to live and you’ve still got an orphan.” You’ve met a felt need for the child, but haven’t gone to the root issue.
Knowing I’m not in any position to adopt (in this current season) makes my heart immediately bleed for the organization that is building the orphanages, digging the wells, or feeding the children. But, deep down, I know I’ve merely given them a fish, instead of planting them lakeside with a fishing pole and proper instruction.
“A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty;
rescue them, and you will have to do it again. (Prov. 19:19)”
Some people are just bound to be angry all the time. Don’t hate them. Anger itself is not a sin, it’s what we do with it that gets us into cahoots with God. We’ve all been discipled by our family of origin what “appropriate” expressions of anger are. Some internalize, others explode, still others manipulate, calculate, or plot revenge. Many fail to learn how to “dump” their anger – they hang onto it like an orphan without an adoption plan. We live in a culture that disciples us deeply in personal revenge rather than trusting in God’s vengeance. Just go watch an action movie.
Know Thy Enemy
Anger is a debt-debtor relationship that happens when someone or something fails to meet our expectations. It says “you owe me”. Holding onto a ledger full of debt is a toxic condition that turns Prov 19:19 into a prophecy. An outburst of anger is biologically accompanied by the release of the hormone cortisol. God designed our bodies to handle cortisol in short bursts, to protect us in fight or flight situations. Long term, it’s toxic. It’s terrible for their health: “fretting” or holding on to “you owe me”s can keep cortisol levels high leading to stroke, heart attack, low bone density… overall, bad stuff. No wonder God tells us not to fret.
If you have their permission (“can I help you solve this problem?”), you may be able to offer them some help. This can’t be removing the problem or solving it for them – you’ve merely built an orphanage, not answered their deeper need. It must be in helping them understand the debt at the bottom of their heart. “What does <person/circumstance> owe you?” Understanding that we don’t war against flesh and blood is vital to clearing the emotional confusion surrounding an outburst (or inburst) of anger.
The deepest need of the person struggling with anger is Christ at the center of their life. A proper understanding of the sovereignty of God equips them with a new Father who is never surprised by their “igniting circumstance”. They need to repeatedly answer through fervent, desperate prayer during many lucid moments: “How does God use affliction to transform us (Psalm 119:75)?”
Practical surrender to a sovereign God includes acknowledging He is in the good and the bad, trials are necessary (James 1:3), and it is okay to be angry, but not to sin against others or God.
Power of Prayer?
Prayer is crucial. While the temple in Israel was rife with the stench of death as thousands of animals were sacrificed daily, the priests would go out with censers filled with incense (representing prayer) that brought a sweet smelling aroma into the outer courts. So, what? Prayer may not change their circumstances, but it brings a sweetness amidst the carnage of unmet expectations. If you can teach them to pray with that understanding, you’re leading them to the answering of their deepest needs.
The gospel isn’t about “try harder” and “do more” it’s about the impossibility of pleasing God with our own efforts and His unfailing love despite that fact. It’s about what He’s already done. As today’s verse explains, behavior modification doesn’t fix the angry person. Get them out of a bind and they’ll just be angry again about the next thing that goes wrong. Only a new heart can do that.
Sometimes, a discipleship relationship with another godly man or woman is the critical link needed to help them sort through things on a regular basis. We meet with men, women, and couples often to provide an outside eye and biblical perspective on living the gospel and handling these kinds of issues. Maybe, they just need to grab coffee with a guy like me who’s battled anger frequently, lost often, but found lasting victory in Christ. Give them my card or connect us via a three way email. Aarron at Seasons of Life Ministries dot org.
Pray hard and without ceasing. Love deeply. Forgive thoroughly and often.
My Mea Culpa
This year, I’ve had great opportunity to talk with men, reason through the scriptures, and pray about the difference between fault and responsibility. In hindsight, I’ve failed to communicate in many areas the great things happening at Seasons of Life. Please forgive me. It’s both my fault and my responsibility.
When you talk to people regularly about personal issues, sensitive matters, and their walk with Christ, you experience a tension between sharing what God is up to with the ministry (BIG NEWS! I can’t tell you about it, though…) and maintaining full confidentiality, therefore cultivating trust. Many of the men I’m locking arms with this season are experiencing breakthroughs in their faith, marriages, and careers. But, I must respect their privacy as I report from the field.
Some are experiencing new seasons – a season away from their children because of divorce, a season of their children being away from them while at school, a season of focus on a marriage after taking it for granted, reconciliation and rebuilding of trust after a fight, a loss, a betrayal, overcoming an addiction… etc. Today, I even got to have a great conversation with a guy about walking with God through the challenges of toxic relationships, maintaining godly standards, and boundaries in the home. God was honored and we both walked away sharper!
These are the vagueries that are “okay” to share publicly because they don’t break confidentiality. But, I want you to know – I get to hear some raw stuff from time to time… And, by God’s grace, I get to point these men back to scripture and watch them recalibrate when they see where they were out of alignment. Other times, it’s just about the basic blocking and tackling of the Christian life. Falling deeper in love with the Word of God and knowing more intimately the God of the Word. Life transformation is happening.
I also get to share some raw stuff about my own failures from time to time… And, I get to cheer them on when God brings a job their way after 18 months of unemployment… a godly relationship after years of “sorting through counterfeits”… Six weeks of deep and devoted regular quiet time… And, through it all, we’ve been able to trace God’s Providential hand at the helm and His grace sustaining it all.
The Way Forward
As Cristine and I step into our 7th year of public ministry, we’re seeing her schedule pick up again, potential dates for “That Day” performances on the horizon, and the continued vision of men, women, couples, and families abiding in Christ, surrendered to their Savior, and serving His kingdom daily. We continue to thank God for the work, the people He entrusts to our care, and the calling He’s placed on our lives. One thing is for sure: no matter what the years ahead have in store, He will continue to test our trust in Him just as much (or more) than those we urge to do the same.
For those of you who are praying for us and those who support this ministry financially, we want to thank you for all you do for the community you serve: the body of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Your prayers matter. You resources make it a reality.
We encourage you to engage with God’s work through us via our Facebook page, Twitter, and weekly on our blog. It is my prayer that after a year “deep in the trenches” with a select few, I am able to devote more time in 2014 to reconnecting with many of you I haven’t been able to make such time for.
If you find yourself in the “it’s been too long” category, email, text, or private message me… Or, go really old school and pick up the phone. I’ll do my best to have my 2014 calendar ready!
Executive Director, Seasons of Life Ministries, That Day, Speak Life, The Uprising
About a week ago, Rory woke up with so much on his heart and mind, he just wrote it down as fast as his fingers could type, added my email address, and hit “send”. What he wrote was exciting to hear – a breakthrough in his walk with Jesus. We talked about it some more and with a little editing, I’m honored to present his thoughts as this week’s Monday Morning Momentum Minute… (More like 5 minutes, if you read like me.)
I hope you’ll find it worth a read and equally worth a “share”.
You see, there is a reason Christ refers to God throughout scriptures as Abba…or father…not “buddy”, “the dude”, “big guy”, or even “brother”. Even though as a Christian you could argue if any one person who’s been on this planet could refer to God as a peer he could. But, He didn’t. In fact, read Phil. 2.6:
“although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…”
Remember Jiminy Cricket? “Always let your conscience be your guide!” He was that one friend who didn’t give into peer pressure, didn’t look at you with rose colored glasses, and told you right from wrong. But, Jiminy was a cricket. His advice was worth taking, but surely it had a loophole in it if you were young enough, smart enough, and fast enough to outrun danger, right? Consultants give opinions, not laws of life and death, right?
So, the good news is – God is holy. The bad news is we’re not. Outside of Christ, we’re dirty, awful, objects of wrath. The better news is, that’s why God sent Jesus – not to give us good advice, be our buddy, take away all our troubles, and give us comfy chairs to sit in as the Titanic leaves port. Jesus died to save us from the worst problem ever – indwelling sin, which cannot stand in the presence of a holy god. Our trust in His sacrifice grants us not only saving grace, but sustaining grace – the power to live a godly life. (Titus 2:12) His grace is not just a fact, it’s the empowering force that helps us to do the impossible: live the Christian life in a Genesis 3 world.
Thanks, Rory, for listening to the voice of the Lord. Thank you, Jesus, for your amazing sacrifice. Thank you, Father, for your incredible justice and for sending Christ in the first place. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for empowering us to do all you designed us to do and become all you designed us to be so that we can bring you more glory.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)”
A good friend sat down with me a couple of years ago and reiterated his philosophy of life: “Make your choices, pay the price and live or die by the consequences.” I’ve seen it to be true more often than I care to admit. I’ve had to pay some pretty hard prices and live with some tough consequences, how about you? This morning, I’m keeping my part brief and handing off to a very helpful article at TGC that I think will motivate and inspire you, encourage and equip you.
You have a choice to make and a price to pay:
Choose whether you believe scripture to be inerrant and God breathed or not. The Bible is not a salad bar that we can choose to believe bin by bin, bite over bite. It’s all or nothing. This truth smacks me in the face often. I’m not permitted to make a judgement call on whether a friend of mine is sinning without taking the plank out of my own eye first. I’m not allowed to command that my wife do something I know God wants her to do without also treating her as both “weaker vessel” (with gentleness and humility) and joint heir of the grace of God (“Neanderthal husbanding” is not Christian servant-leadership). Oh, yeah, and I have to pay the price by “trusting in the Lord and leaning not on my own understanding…” Ouch.
If scripture is true and truly breathed by God, I am not permitted to worship the word of God over the god of the Word. It is a gift from the creator given in love to guide, direct, save me from sin and death, and play great part in conforming me to the image of Christ. Are we tracking together?
If we are to honestly interpret scripture with scripture, (meaning use the clear points of scripture to clarify that which is not so clear), we are doing so on the presumption that all of scripture can be trusted. If we are to place our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, able to both atone for our sins by His shed blood sacrifice and to appease the wrath of God that we truly deserved otherwise, we are making a statement that we trust the scriptures to be true.
But how can we? How can we be so sure? We can’t ever be 100% certain, silly – it’s called faith. But, it was never meant to be “blind faith”. So, inform yourself, will you?
Justin Holcomb shines light on this important subject. This is for you, but not for you alone. Read it, pray about it, digest it, and process it out loud with your mentor, small group, pastor, etc. This is great discipleship material. Do not let it fall by the wayside. It is certainly not the exhaustive truth about the veracity of scripture, but it’s a great jumping off point and a solid fundamental primer.
“Why You Can Trust Your Bible” by Justin Holcomb
When you have three toddlers, one vehicle in the family, and limited resources, you tend not to travel long distances very often. But, when Grandma offered us to stay with her for a week around the twins’ 3rd birthday, driving 10 hours (plus stops) to South Florida became a much more workable proposition.
Then, we got on the road… Lonnnng road. Did I mention 10 hours plus stops?
Breaking it Down
When your destination is so far off, you tend to look for mile markers, the coveted “halfway” mark, and state boundaries are bright spots on the journey. From Gainesville, GA to the Florida line is about 4-1/2 hours. The whole time we were on that leg of the trip, all three toddlers and both adults were talking about “heading to Florida, heading to Florida” with great anticipation. Unfortunately, the Florida line is an hour shy of the halfway mark. Even when you get to the line, you’ve still got a long way to go, don’t you? Especially if there are delays…
This means the excitement of “getting to Florida” is short lived and soon replaced with “are we at Grandma’s yet?” This is the tension between temporal hope and eternal hope… In fact, after a few hours in Florida I began to think we were never going to get there and it would have been great to be back home in Gainesville, GA. Rain and the inevitable standstill construction traffic slowdowns. “Four more hours? 3… 2… Ever?!”
In those moments of temporal disappointment, if we didn’t have the ongoing excitement of knowing we’d see Grandma, Nana, and a big birthday party, it might have been easier to just pull over to the nearest beach, hang out, and go back home. “We’re passing the Panhandle… Can’t we just pull over in Destin and call it a day?”
Paul heard about trouble on the Isle of Crete. False teaching was making a mark. Paul’s letter to Titus gets verbally a little Chuck Norris to help focus the teaching ministry there. “Rebuke sharply… Warn the divisive once, twice, then have nothing to do with him. Here’s the vital stuff you can’t skimp on in your ministry, Titus. Be clear and bold about this stuff,” he essentially told him. Clear and imperative coaching without any fluff.
But then, he drives these points home with at least one “why” Titus should be teaching these things:
“…so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:7, emphasis mine)“
Hope is the place you hang your heart, your mind, your current, intense focus. Paul gives Titus crucial perspective on the hope part of his discipleship ministry – “Keep those you disciple focused on the fact that they’ve been saved from sin and the stuff that used to enslave them, but also keep their eyes on the fact that they’ve won the ultimate permanent vacation destination: “hope of eternal life”.
Better than birthday at Grandma’s. Better than the beach. Better than a halfway point. Eternity… with… Jesus.
Glad you asked. The traffic jams and distractions that slow us down on the way to eternity are the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life”. Satan loves to misdirect our ultimate hope with midway points in the temporal realm. Misplaced hopes: loss of a family member or mate… or a job… or a dream… Gain of a new gadget or the bonus or promotion we’ve been working for or just the accumulation of the house, the boat, the pool, the dream backyard, dream kitchen or both.
The word “amusement” comes from the Greek “a = not” and “muse = think”, meaning “not thinking”. During tough parts of our life journey, we tend to long for amusing diversions. These are places where we almost need to “hyper-muse”: intensely focus on the eternal. During the “fun” parts, we can easily become too enamored by the midpoints and make the journey all about the amusement. There’s a ditch on both sides of the road.
Paul makes it clear: life isn’t about the journey – it’s about our eternal destination. God is preparing us for eternity. So, what are you thinking about… or not thinking? Have you become so overwhelmed or enamored by the journey that the ultimate destination is no longer your focus? Where is your hope, in the now or the eternal?
Can’t Always Get What You Want…
Sometimes, I get confused about the difference between my “desired outcomes” and my “rights”. Let’s see if you might relate.
I have a constitutional “right” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But, I know that something I get happy over is the approval of others and the respect of my peers. So, I pursue it. Sometimes I get it. Other times, I’m left hanging and my brain jumps from A (desired outcomes) to B (rights) leaving me disappointed at least and angry at worst. Can you relate?
Maybe your desired outcome is different – promotion/raise, the next car “up”, an apology from someone who really did you wrong, your teenager or subordinate at work following your advice and making smart choices, privacy, peace and quiet, death to crabgrass, a little recognition for the extra effort you put in on that last project… around the house? Ever experience that confusion… disappointment… even anger?
Ultimately, disappointments can become food for the internal battles within that James refers to below:
“1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel... (James 4:1-2, ESV)”
This week, a lot of the one on one discipleship conversations I’m having with the men I’m walking have been centered around this very issue. For many men, coming up short on recognition once or twice at work, (or worse, at home) = no big deal. But, over time, it can clutter the mental stage with a low level hum that distracts us from what we’re really trying to focus on. I like to call it “ambient spiritual noise”.
How loud is your stage?
Two thousand years ago, there was a disciple who learned a remedy to this. His mouth was shaped like a sandal so he didn’t look out of place every time he put his foot in it. Guy named “Peter”. Ever walk in his mouth… I mean, shoes?
|Coffee mug for Simon Peter|
Peter goes from hero to zero pretty quickly according to Mark, chapter 8. In one line, Jesus calls Peter “the Rock”, then a few moments later “Satan” and “a stumbling block”. Ouch. Jesus publicly commends Peter for correctly identifying Him as the Messiah. Jesus then goes on to tell everyone He’s about to be tortured, killed, and resurrected. Not the story Peter was expecting. Peter kind of snaps. He pulls Jesus aside and rebukes him. (Gusty, Peter. You want some mustard on that shoe before you eat it?)
Jesus follows up with an address to the whole crowd, facing Peter with the dilemma that every one of us who desires to follow Jesus must deal with:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34b)”
Jesus essentially tells them/us all. “To follow me, you must walk in denial of your desires and possessions.” Denial… To know who Jesus is, is head knowledge. To follow Him, will require sacrifice: what two things must we deny ourselves?
- Everything and
Can You Expand on That?
Sure, thanks for asking… Philippians says Jesus “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant… [and became] obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (2.7-8)” Think about that: Jesus, most powerful being on the planet, could have called down at least 60,000 angels to save Him from brutally violent death, denied Himself his right to life… liberty… and the pursuit of any form of happiness. Jesus models living “in denial”.
Are you willing to deny yourself everything and follow Jesus? I’m not. Not in my own strength. But, as always, there’s Good News and there’s great news. Good news: Jesus died for that sin. Great news: He sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to deny ourselves daily and take up our cross to follow Him. The act of “followship” is not one we are left to do in our own strength. When we fail, we’re already forgiven. God loves us so much He even sent a Helper to pick us up when we fall.
The “Take Away”:
Here’s your homework: write down your top ten goals and dreams – the house, the promotion(s), the boat, the acceptance and respect of your peers, the approval of your wife, kids, boss, or even your parents and draw a big line through them. Even better, find one of those insurance adjuster stamps that says “Denied” and stamp it on every one. Pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen you to live in “denial” with me… with Peter… with Jesus, who humbled Himself on the cross and became obedient to death….
Expectations bind us to the desired outcome we’re seeking. When we expect and don’t get, a debt/debtor we risk falling into a debt/debtor relationship with what we expected. When we mentally and emotionally let go of expectations, anything we receive is counted as a blessing. Note: this doesn’t mean lowering or not having expectations. We are to strive for excellence, and to do so requires standards that may not always be met. However, there is a big difference between having expectations and being had by our expectations.
By “living in denial” (denying ourselves through surrender to Christ and quickly reconciling unmet expectations), we create massive opportunities for blessing and free ourselves from dependence on human justice. Surrender to Christ means surrender of everything, allowing free reign for the justice of God, who sees all things and will reward all men for what they have done and what they have denied themselves.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov. 13.12)”
“Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 17.27-29)”
“How aware are you of your subtle attempts at controlling outcomes?”
“As life becomes more ‘complicated’, how aware are you of your attachment to your outcomes, expectations, commitments, and possessions?”
Do you know someone who’s always hopeless or pessimistic? They’ve tried and failed. They tried again with a better plan or better people and the people, the plan, or both fell through. “Maybe, it’s just me.” they think. They look at the sky and see a half a cloud, so it must be about to pour, right? You plead with them – “It’s (insert your city or town). If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes and it’ll change.”
“Wrong.” they say, listing all of the valid exceptions: “Lima, Peru – it never rains; Seattle, WA – always raining; and San Diego – always sunny and 72.”
You beg and reason with them until you’re blue in the face. You may even begin to question yourself in light of all the evidence they present. Maybe, you’ve even walked away from them for a season.
“You have a negative view of the past, of the present, and of the future. You feel that nothing is going to get better—that it’s terrible now and it’s going to stay this way the rest of your life,” says Dr. Archibald Hart.
“My life has always been rainy… There’s no hope. I’m a Seattle and all of my friends are San Diegos.” Hoplessness, shame, and pessimism are lies that affirm this: “the past = the future”. If that were true, why bother? But, we can bother. We are called to bother. Jesus died to dump hopelessness, shame, and pessimism in the lake of fire.
David asks God the tough questions throughout the Psalms about why the wicked prosper and prods at God “how long will you let… [this injustice continue]” Jeremiah models it, too, in 20.18:
“Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?”
The great news for your friend who is hopeless, burdened by shame, and weighed down by pessimism: Elijah, Moses, Job, Jonah, Jeremiah – great men of God all despaired for their lives. Yet, all saw miracles of God before their own eyes (or once they were out of the belly of the fish and could see something… Ah, you get the point.)
Silence is Golden: So, how do you handle your “mostly cloudy” friends?Know when words just won’t do. When Job lost everything… and then lost it all again… and again… His three friends started out on the right foot:
“Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. 2.13″
Sometimes, words are necessary. Other times, words are the worst thing to bring to the table. This is more art than science – advice from the Holy Spirit is more often than not the only true barometer.
Let Them Grieve without Giving Your Advice – when dealing with someone who’s stuck in the past, or even a present crisis, leaving your Home Depot/DIY apron in the truck is the rule of the day. As I grow wiser, I’m learning when my bride is hurting or just plain worn down by life that one of the most valuable questions I can ask is this:
“Are you telling me this because you’re seeking a solution or because you just need to vent?”
Men, this has kept my marriage on the rails more often than not – but it is wisdom for all kinds of relationships. Don’t let your talent at fixing things derail your ability to pastor a friend or confidant.
- Encourage Sincerely – When you’ve received permission to offer your opinion or advice, pray that God gives you the words to say and that you stay away from the Hallmark aisle of your brain. Nobody – I mean nobody – likes canned speeches and trite verses.
- Don’t Minimize the Past – “It’s really not that big a deal.” is incredibly an minimizing and impersonal way of saying “Your suffering is nothing.” Yes, we all need to weight our present suffering against the suffering of Christ on our behalf, but God is a personal God, not a God of facts. Take into account that everyone’s personal struggles are just that: personal. Minimizing their personal affects feels like you’re minimizing them.
- Point to Jesus – The most important bridge to build is from past or present pain to future hopes and dreams and only the death, resurrection and ransom of Christ offers us proof and assurance that the past does not equal the future. Fluffy, flowery Jesus talk doesn’t really help – see #3 – but, a real expression that we’re all stuck for now in this broken world, redeemed, and soon to be delivered is the only truth that can build that bridge.
You’re not their Messiah – a lot of times, we get hung up trying to solve their problem, rather than carrying the burden for a time. Keeping this in perspective is a crucial guardrail in staying out of the muck while pulling them out. Great lifeguards know you can’t save everyone, merely offer a steady hand to those who will accept it.
In a Genesis 3 world, we will all have trouble. But, Christ assures us in light of this He has overcome the world and will deliver us from our light and momentary troubles. Ultimately, we will one day meet Him at the Bema seat (2 Cor. 5.10) and be rewarded for the things we did in His power and crowns for the pains we suffered in the meantime.
Great rewards await… all who overcome.