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Archive | Discipleship

Working Out a New Normal Quiet Time

Quiet TimeI was disciplined. A day without a formal quiet time was really rare. And I confess to you now, that I felt a little “self-righteous” about my “faithfulness” to God.

Then my husband retired.

And my “discipline” went out the window.

I’d had this perfect routine. When Wayne went into the kitchen at 5:15 am, I got up and joined him. We took care of the dogs, made coffee, and visited while he ate breakfast. As soon as he left for work about 5:45, I’d take my coffee to my desk and open my Bible and my journal.

His regular schedule shaped a regular time with God for me.

But since December, he has had no regular schedule. His lack of schedule has tremendously messed with my regular schedule. He doesn’t leave in the morning. And he turns on talk radio. And he asks questions. And he wants me to do stuff.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE that he is around. I am glad that he retired. But his change has meant change for me. My once regular quiet time is now more sporadic. I have to work harder to make it happen.

And Wayne’s retirement is not our only major change. We’ve been traveling back and forth to my parents’ home in another state to pack their house and move their things to Tennessee to be near my brother. And we’ve been working around our house in preparation to sell it. As soon as it sells, we will be moving from Houston to the Dallas area to be near our daughters and their families.

Right now, the only consistency in my life seems to be inconsistency. And I’m still trying to adjust to the non-schedule. Honestly, I have felt a little “faithless” lately. For years, I have encouraged you to have a regular time with God and now I am the one struggling. And even though I am praying and reading His Word here and there, I am languishing over the lack of consistency.

But yesterday, God dropped a solid truth in my lap to encourage me. I was reading in 2 Timothy trying to keep up with the Bible study I’m in at church. (I’m doing and loving “Entrusted” by Beth Moore.) It was these words:

If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.              2 Timothy 2:13, NIV

Yes! God is always faithful even when I am not. He is always faithful because that is who He is. He is faithful by nature and He will not be faithless.

So, in light of my faithlessness, I am clinging to God’s faithfulness. I will ask Him to help me commit to a “new normal” and relying on His faithfulness I will set my alarm.

 

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Why Do You Follow Jesus?

Follow JesusThis isn’t just a rhetorical question. I am asking it of myself this week. Why do I follow Jesus?

The question came up during my daily Bible reading in the sixth chapter of John. Jesus had just fed more than 5,000 people with just 5 small loaves of bread and 2 little fish – a miraculous, supernatural feat that displayed Jesus’ power and authority.

The next morning the crowds came looking for Him again. But they didn’t come to worship or to seek the things that only He can give.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

John 6:26-31, NLT

The people looked for Jesus because He had filled their bellies, not because they had allowed Him to fill their souls. They missed the point of the miracle. They failed to see past their own physical circumstances. And even after Jesus pointed out their eternal, spiritual need, they simply asked what else He might do for them.

They asked for less. They looked for things that don’t last. It was all about a full belly and the here and now.

Sometimes I do the same. Often I am consumed by my temporary, physical circumstances and turn to Jesus solely because I want Him to “fix” things. I lost sight of the bigger picture. I allow the short-term to overshadow eternity. I spend all my energy worrying about things that don’t last when instead I should simply come to Jesus for the spiritual food only He can provide.

What about you? Why are you following Jesus today?

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What should I do with Philippians 3:14?

Recently I joined a First Place 4 Health online small group for prayer, Bible study, and accountability. Our activities include a weekly Scripture memory verse. This week – our first week – we were challenged to memorize Philippians 3:14.

Philippians 3:14I taped the Scripture card to my desk where I can see it all the time and began to work on it. But soon I began to have questions. I needed to know more about the verse. If I’m going to work to “hide God’s Word in my heart” then I need to know its meaning, its truth, so I can understand it and apply its principles to my life.

First, I needed to understand the context. So I backed up and read the entire third chapter of Philippians. Paul began by addressing a false teaching plaguing the Gentile believers in Philippi. Jewish Christians were pressuring them to be circumcised. Paul passionately reminded the Philippians not to place in any value in works or accomplishments. Instead they must focus on Christ and push forward to God’s purpose for them.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14, NIV

Once I had the basic context, the specific verse prompted three questions I wanted to answer. So back to the larger context to find my answers!

  1. What is the “goal” I’m to press toward?

My “goal” is to be all Jesus saved me for and wants me to be (Philippians 3:12) – including experiencing the resurrection of the dead (Philippians 3:11) and receiving my glorified body (Philippians 3:21).

2. What is the “prize” God has called me to?

Our “prize” is glorious! Here are the things I found:

  • To know Christ – and that’s priceless gain! (Philippians 3:8)
  • To have Christ (Philippians 3:8)
  • To become one with Christ (Philippians 3:9)
  • To experience Christ’s mighty power (Philippians 3:10)

3. What does it look like to “press on?”

“Pressing on” requires discipline, diligence, and determination. It’s a lifelong process of following Christ in trust and obedience. Here are a few specifics I found in chapter 3.

  • I must get my priorities straight – Jesus over earthly things (Philippians 3:8)
  • I must trust in Christ’s ability to save and not my own abilities (Philippians 3:9)
  • I must focus on my sanctification (Philippians 3:12)
  • I must not dwell on past failures – or successes – that would keep me from moving forward (Philippians 3:13)
  • I must “dethrone” my earthly appetites and enthrone Jesus (Philippians 3:19)

Wow! There’s a lot of punch behind that one little verse. These 20 words reflect a lifetime of faith and discipleship. I’d say that’s worth taking to heart.

How do you feel about memorizing Scripture? Do you find it too hard? Are you working on a passage now? If so, I’d love to hear what it is!

Want to memorize Philippians 3:14? Print this Scripture memory card to help! (Click on the photo below to access the printable PDF.

Philippians 3:14

Want some help memorizing God’s Word? Here are some Scripture Memory resources to check out:

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Do You Ever Try to Take Charge of Jesus?

Take Charge of JesusWe know that Jesus’ mother Mary and His half-brother James became believers. But Jesus wasn’t always their Lord. There was a time when they tried to “take charge” of Jesus, to control Him.

Last week, while preparing to teach a Bible study class, I came across the evidence. I’ve read the passage many times before, but this time God gave me some fresh application. Very personal application.

It was early in Jesus’ ministry. He had just called the Twelve. The crowds were growing and clamoring for His attention. They wanted more miracles. The Jewish leaders’ antagonism toward Jesus grew in correlation to His popularity with the common folk. And it all got back to Jesus’ family in Nazareth.

The scene opens with Jesus and His disciples in a house, probably tired and weary from travel and ministry. But the crowds found Him again, packing the dwelling and the immediate area. The demands of the people were so great, Jesus and the disciples could not even take time to eat.

That’s when we read this:

When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”  Mark 3:21, NIV

Jesus’ family attempted an intervention. But why? The Scripture doesn’t give us details, just that they thought Jesus had lost His mind. Maybe they thought – like the Jewish leaders claimed – that Jesus was possessed by a demon. Maybe they thought He was the head of some outlandish cult. Maybe they were concerned about His safety or worried about their own reputation.

Whatever the exact reason, they decided to put a stop to it. To take charge. To make Jesus listen to reason and come home to Nazareth. They probably even thought they had Jesus’ best interests at heart.

If you think about it, it really is a funny scene. The little family entourage planned to seize Jesus and take Him against His will. That’s what “take charge” in this passage means. They planned to impose their will on the One who had been casting out demons and restoring sight to the blind.

Ridiculous, right?! But don’t we sometimes try to do the same? I do, anyway. See if you might fall into one of the following.

3 Ways We Try to Take Charge of Jesus

  1. Ask Jesus to bless your plans – Oh boy! I’ve done this more times than I can count. I get carried away with all these great ideas for ministry and jump in. Then I take them to Jesus and ask for His blessing.
  2. Attempt to manipulate Jesus – Have you ever asked God to trade favors? “Lord, if you will just do …, then I will do …” God doesn’t cut deals or make bargains.
  3. Give God your wish list – I’m as guilty of this as anybody. I put my “prayer list” before God and expect Him to spit out the right answers like a divine vending machine.

These three things are just a sampling of some of the ways we Christians sometimes attempt to “take charge” of Jesus. We want to bend Jesus to our will instead of allow Him to bend us to His. I admit it. It’s a daily battle for me. That’s why the Holy Spirit so often reminds me of Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

In what ways have you tried to “take charge” of Jesus? How can the spiritual truth found in Galatians 2:20 help us to give Jesus charge of us instead?

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3 Quiet Time Cautions

Quiet timeWe are five days into the New Year. Five days into starting fresh. And, for many Christians, five days into working toward a new set of spiritual goals. Perhaps you even set some goals and strategies for a regular quiet time.

Regularly on this blog and when I speak, I encourage believers to “train themselves for godliness.” This website offers dozens of free tools and resources to help. Including quiet time tips. But today, I want to go to the flip side of the coin and share some words of caution about quiet time.

3 Cautions for Your Quiet Time

  1. Don’t do all the talking – Why do many of us always talk more than we listen? It’s a bad enough habit with our friends and family, but it’s far worse with God. Yet, often we allow prayer to become a one-way conversation. We end up talking at God instead of with Him. Honestly, this is a struggle for me. I have to remind myself to listen, to sit quietly and allow the King of the universe to speak. And isn’t it amazing that He does?!
  2. Don’t be unprepared – It is not unspiritual to plan and prepare. Jesus told His disciples to count the cost of following Him. Paul wrote to Timothy that he must “train Himself for godliness.” Both teach us that we must be purposeful and diligent in our discipleship and spiritual growth. Keep your tools – Bible, pen, journal, etc. – together and at hand, ready to go each morning. And have a Bible reading plan. Dropping open your Bible and pointing your finger is haphazard at best.
  3. Don’t succumb to legalism – This point does not contradict caution #2. Our goal should be to be prepared but flexible. I am a list maker who loves to check off the boxes. Too many times, I have found myself rushing through my Bible reading so I can check off the day’s box. Or I felt guilty when I missed a day of quiet time. Legalism in our quiet time robs us of its joy and inhibits the intimacy we long to have with God. Let’s keep our goals in mind, but let’s also follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to “get off script,” and give ourselves some grace when life gets in the way.
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Discipleship Resources for 2017

Discipleship ResourcesDid your purposeful commitment to spiritual growth fall by the wayside some time during 2016? Maybe your time in God’s Word became sporadic. Maybe your prayer time dwindled. Well, there’s no better time to renew your commitment to discipleship and recommit to your time with God than the New Year. This post is chock full of discipleship resources, tips, and tools to help you get started and keep going all year.

A Place to Start

The following four posts/tools will help you figure out where you are spiritually and where God is leading you in the New Year.

  • Discipleship Evaluation Tool – honestly evaluate your current spiritual condition. This tool covers 17 different key discipleship areas. Your weakest areas of 2015 can be great growth areas in 2016.
  • Spiritual Goals Worksheet – Planning is not “unspiritual.” Living a life that glorifies God will not happen by accident. This tool walks you through specific areas of discipleship such as time with God, ministry, service, and Christian education to help you set New Year goals.
  • Setting goals for spiritual growth – These five tips will help you set doable, personal discipleship goals that will keep us growing through the year.
  • 3 Steps to Create a Hunger for the Bible – Do you long to hunger for God’s Word but right now your desire is limited?

General Discipleship Resources

The following posts each offer a collection of resources and tools to help you meet your goals.

Specific Discipleship Helps

This last group of resources focuses on a specific area of discipleship like quiet time, prayer, Bible reading, or Scripture Memory.

I hope these resources will help you meet your 2017 spiritual growth goals. I’d love to hear from you about how God is leading you to step out in the New Year!

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5 Tips for Setting Spiritual Growth Goals for 2017

2017 Spiritual GoalsThis time of year, many of us reflect on the condition of our lives. We may evaluate the health of our bodies, our relationships, or our work situation. We may even “resolve” to change things. But if we’re really serious about improvement, we will set some goals and establish a plan to move forward. But have you ever considered doing the same with your spiritual health? The New Year is the perfect time to do some “spiritual evaluation” and set some goals for spiritual growth.

We can’t cause our spiritual growth. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to transform us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). But God does expect our obedient and active cooperation (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). One way we can purposefully “train ourselves to be godly” (1 Tim 4:7-8) is through spiritual evaluation and goal setting.

This post includes both a “Discipleship Evaluation” tool and a “Spiritual Goals Worksheet” for you to do just that. But keep in mind, resolutions and goals are often hard to keep. Statistics show that, at best, only 46% of New Year’s resolutions are still kept six months into the year. People lose their resolve quickly because they set unattainable goals.

First, use this free Discipleship Evaluation form to honestly evaluate your current spiritual condition. This tool covers 17 different key discipleship areas. Your weakest areas can be great growth areas in 2017.

Next, set spiritual growth goals using the five tips below. Planning is not “unspiritual.” Living a life that glorifies God will not happen by accident. This free “Spiritual Goals Worksheet” walks you through specific areas of discipleship such as time with God, ministry, service, and Christian education.

Most importantly, ask God to guide you as you evaluate your spiritual health and set goals for growth. He will bring the spiritual transformation as you strive to live a live that pleases Him.

5 Tips for Setting Goals for Spiritual Growth

The following five tips will help us set personal discipleship goals that will keep us growing through the year:

  1. Concentrate your efforts. Set just one, two, or three goals at a time. Don’t spread yourself too thin. When you experience success then add another goal.
  2. Be realistic. Set attainable goals. If you don’t read your Bible regularly now, don’t set a goal to read the entire Bible in three months. Instead commit to read it 3 to 5 times per week.
  3. Think concretely. Set goals so progress can be measured. For instance, this goal is too ambiguous: I’m going to spend more time with God. Instead be concrete: I will read one Bible chapter and pray for 10 minutes five times a week.
  4. Include strategies. Develop strategies designed to move you toward your goals. If one goal is to memorize Scripture, determine how you will do that. What verses you will memorize? How often you will tackle a new one? What memorization techniques you will use?
  5. Create manageable steps. Break your overall goal into a series of smaller goals that are doable and will foster success.

Be sure to come back by on Monday for a resource list to help you meet your goals!

How do you feel about setting spiritual goals? Have you ever set spiritual goals in the past?

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6 Christmas Bible Reading Plans

Christmas Bible ReadingThe Christmas season has officially begun. More than likely, activities like shopping, baking, and gift wrapping fill your December to-do list. If we aren’t purposeful, all the holiday activity can easily overshadow the reason we celebrate.

I have a challenge for us – for you and for me. Let’s commit to putting Jesus at the top of our list every day between now and Christmas. Let’s make time with Him each morning a priority. (Check out these practical tips for having a Quiet Time.)

What would that look like? For me, it means sitting with a mug of hot coffee, my Bible, and my journal before I start my daily activities. I read and meditate on God’s Word to renew my mind with His truth. I talk with God in prayer, sharing my heart and listening for His direction.

Over the years, I have discovered that I need the discipline of a Bible reading plan. This great discipleship tool helps me be intentional and regular with my Bible reading. For a brief few moments I contemplated developing a plan to use and to share with you. But then I realized there is no need to reinvent the wheel and decided to find out what Christmas Bible Reading Plans are already available.

6 Christmas Bible Reading Plans for the Season

I’ve done a little internet searching and found 5 great Bible reading plans for the Christmas season.

  1. “Christmas Bible Reading Plan” on BibleStudyTools.com – “Designed for personal or family reading times, these 25 New Testament readings highlight the birth of Jesus and the purpose for His coming. Related Old Testament passages are also featured daily.”
  2. “Advent: Christ is Coming” – This 28-day devotional is designed for families and available on the YouVersion.com
  3. “Rediscovering the Christmas Season” – Another YouVersion.com reading plan, this 25-day plan combines Old Testament and New Testament readings.
  4. “All the Colors of Christmas” – This family advent devotional by Focus on the Family is brand new for 2016 and free to download!
  5. “Family Christmas Bible Reading Plan” – I found this 25-day plan on the website for a church in Ontario, Canada. It focuses on the purpose of Jesus’ coming.
  6. “Bite of Bread: Bible Reading Plan for Christmas Week” – This 7-day plan by Christians author and blogger Andy Lee at Daily Grace focuses on the significance of the name “Jesus.”

What are some things you plan to do to keep Jesus at the top of your Christmas to-do list? Let’s talk!

Other helpful resources:

 

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5 Reasons to Reboot Your Quiet Time

Quiet TimeDo you have a regular “quiet time?” You won’t find this term in the Bible, but Christians use it to refer to purposeful time spent alone with God. A time to hear from God and share your heart with Him. Jesus Himself set the example for us (Luke 5:16).

I’ve heard – and made – many excuses for not setting aside time in the day to spend with God. Busyness is probably the biggest culprit. Yes, life can be overwhelmingly busy. But we have control over many of the items on our calendar. How we spend much of our time is our choice. We can choose God.

Some of you are in a season of life where you truly have very little time to yourself. Maybe you are a caregiver or the mother of young children. Many life circumstances make carving out space for a regular quiet time more difficult, but with a bit of creativity you can claim some time, even if it’s just a few moments here and there. (See this post for some examples.)

And some of us who were once devoted to our daily quiet time may have realized we slowly fell away from this spiritual discipline until it’s no longer our regular habit. An abbreviated day here and a missed day there, and the next thing we know…

Quiet Time Reboot Challenge

I’m going to be honest with you. For decades I’ve been very committed to regular time with God, but the last few months have been extremely challenging for me. I’ve been traveling a lot and my parents have been ill. And I’ve allowed those things to impact the quality of my quiet time.

Many Christians make establishing a regular quiet time a New Year’s resolution. January 1st is always a good time to get back on track. But often, by this time of year, many of us have let that resolution slowly fall by the wayside. But we don’t have to wait for the New Year. We can reboot our quiet time now!

Not sure you’re ready to get back on track? Maybe we need some incentive to make regular quiet time a priority. Let’s remind ourselves of a few of the benefits of spending time with God.

5 Reasons to Reboot Your Quiet Time

  1. Spending regular time with God helps us know Him better, which fosters a deeper intimacy in our relationship.
  2. Listening to God through His Word and prayer helps us better understand His will in general and discover His specific direction for our lives.
  3. Time spent submitted and vulnerable before God gives Him an opportunity to accomplish His refining work in us.
  4. Sitting in God’s presence enables us to more fully experience the comfort, encouragement, peace, and joy He longs to give us.
  5. Purposeful time each day focused solely on God helps us keep our mind and heart on Him all day long.

November 1st Reboot

No time like NOW to start fresh on a commitment to spend time with God. Will you join me for a November 1st resolution? Let’s make a fresh commitment to regularly spend time with God and end 2016 with a spiritual bang instead of a whimper. Here are a couple of things you may find helpful in establishing or re-establishing a regular quiet time:

So… will you reboot with me? I’d love to hear from you about how your quiet time is going right now… if you need a reboot and why… and if you’ll reboot with me!

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4 Cautions Before Choosing a Life Verse

My name is Kathy and I don’t have a life verse. And I feel like I just might be the only Christian on the planet who doesn’t.

What is a “life verse?”

According to the Dictionary of Christianese, a “life verse” is a “specific Bible verse that a Christian believes to be specially representative or predictive of his or her life. Many Christians regard their life verse as an inspirational motto or lifelong mission statement.”

Why do people choose a life verse?

Life verseHonestly, I’m really not sure. As far as Christian history goes, it’s a fairly recent practice – like in just the last 100 years. As far as I have been able to determine, there is no biblical principle to support choosing a life verse. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong, or a bad thing to do, but it could be more trendy than spiritual.

If you’re considering choosing a life verse, you can get all kinds of help online. For instance,  you can learn how to find your life verse. Then if you’re still having trouble narrowing the more than 31,000 down to just one, here are 20 suggestions! Still at a loss? You can take this quiz to determine what yours should be! But the article I like the most was this sarcastic one on “Stuff Christians Like.

Right now I don’t see a need to choose one verse that defines, directs, or represents my life. However, that doesn’t mean concentrating on a specific verse or passage for a period of time is a bad thing. But I do think you should proceed with caution.

4 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Life Verse

  1. All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for our lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12-13) – Yes, some verses and passages have greater impact at certain times in our lives. For instance, if we are in a season of grief and loss we may want to memorize verses about God’s comfort and peace. But God’s Word has value for all things – the whole Word of God, not just a piece. Why would we even attempt to narrow it down to one verse!
  2. One verse or passage can easily be misapplied – We cannot correctly understand one verse apart from its context in the greater passage. Pulling one out on its own can be dangerous. For instance, in the list of 20 life verses mentioned above, Philippians 4:13 was at the top of their list. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? I see it on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and wall plagues all the time. But I imagine most people take this verse out of context. When we read the larger passage, we discover that Paul was writing about finding contentment even in the most dire of circumstances. Yet we often claim this verse as a promise that God will empower us to tackle any big task or great thing we want to take on.
  3. Only God knows the future – It seems if we take this life verse thing really seriously that we just could get the cart before the horse. What I mean is this – if we choose one verse as a statement for our life, we could easily fall into choosing a verse that reflects our life rather than working to make our life reflect God’s Word.
  4. It’s easy to make ourselves the focus – Often choosing a life verse seems to be a lot about “me,” and not so much God. Many times, it’s about what makes us feel good or reflects what we want to do for God.

Yes, there are times when I’ve spent days or weeks or more focusing on one passage of Scripture. There are specific verses I hold dear because God has used them to teach me something huge or impact me in a significant way. And I fully expect that to continue. But for now, there’s no “life verse” for me.

Would love for you to chime in. “Yes” or “no” to a life verse and why!

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