What is a Disciple? A Disciple is Authentic

“Preach the Gospel always.
Use words if necessary.”
Saint Augustine

This quote has been circling the globe for centuries.  While no one knows for sure who is the original author it is widely accredited to Saint Augustine. 

At the heart of the quote is the lesson that our actions speak to those we interact with in our lives. By what we do and the decisions we make we communicate who we are. As disciples of Jesus Christ how we live our lives preach the Good News. Before we speak we have already communicate the Gospel to them.

With this in mind it is important to reflect on how we truly live our lives. Do we wear a mask to hide our authentic self? Are or lives split where our church life does not cross our “every day” life?

Living an authentic life is difficult at times. There are challenges that will scare us to be unauthentic for a period of time. The temptation is real to hide and avoid leaving our comfort zone.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:13-16)

We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live our authentic lives in the world. We need not be afraid of ridicule or judgment. Instead we shine brightly in the world pointing to Jesus with our whole lives and our words. The world gets to know Jesus by watching how we follow Him with our whole selves.

So here’s the question how is your light shining in your whole life?

How many of your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors would describe you as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Where are there places or people you wear a mask to maybe not shine your light so brightly?

As a disciple of Jesus Christ each one of us are called to live authentic lives. That means the good and the bad. See, when we experience difficult ties (and they will come) it is how we journey through them and rely on God that is an authentic sharing of the Gospel.

Also in the good times giving God praise and not our own shares the Gospel. Pointing back to Jesus in all things is our witness.

Being authentic is being transparent. Admitting when you need help. Giving credit to your Father in heaven. Saying you don’t have all the answers but you know the One Who does.

A disciple is authentic modeling complete trust in God in all circumstances at all times.  Be not discouraged fellow disciple. Continue to turn to God pointing back to Him for all the world to see and come to know Him for themselves.

This Week’s Challenge 

Take 2 minutes (even set a timer) and write out what message of God you are passionate about sharing with the whole world.  Then spend 5 minutes brainstorming practical things you can do in your daily life to share that message in your actions and in your words. 

What is a Disciple? A Disciple Loves

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples — when they see the love you have for each other.” Luke 13:34-35 (The Message)

God loves all His children.  Some love Him. Others choose to turn their backs on Him. Regardless of our response God’s love does not change. He loves us, all of us.

As His followers we strive to love others. We are His representatives here on Earth. So as we love, the world learns about God’s love. Loving is a primary duty of a disciple.

In His last formal teaching time Jesus directed the 12 Disciples to love one another. This was how the world would come to recognize each of them as a follower of Jesus.

They struggled to be obedient even at the outset. As Jesus was handed over to be crucified, one by one the disciples abandoned Him. Eleven repented and returned to be with one another. There in a locked room the Eleven were together to see the Resurrected Jesus and be anointed with the Holy Spirit. They went on to love in the world sharing the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus Christ. 

So what does this mean for us today? How do we strive to love one another as God loves?

In previous posts we saw how a disciple follows the Holy Spirit’s leading, listens to Jesus’ teachings and learns from the Creator God. These practices help the disciple to witness God’s love first-hand so that s/he can go and do likewise in one’s every day life. 

Loving others is seen in helping someone get to a doctor’s appointment on-time. Or encouraging another during a difficult time. 

Love is also shared when a person chooses to work together with another despite personality or philosophical differences. It would be understandable to argue and refuse to work together but in love the differences are seen as opportunities to understand one another.  They are not used to divide or harm each other.

As fallen, sinful beings love is not always easy to do. There is pain. But how incredible it feels when we receive love whether we “deserve” it or not. Why deny someone else that glorious joy?

We are able to love one another because God first loves us. We are only able to love because He lives in us. It is our duty as His followers to love one another. No excuses. It is after all how the world will know we are His disciples.

This Week’s Challenge

Think of an individual or group that differs from you in personality of philosophy.  What is one thing you will do this week to demonstrate love to them this week?  Schedule it in your calendar. 

What is a Disciple? A Disciple Learns

A follower of a teacher leans what the teacher has to pass along.  This process is on-going, not just a one time occurrence. As the teacher and the disciple, or follower, spend more time together more lessons are shared amongst them. The disciple becomes more like the teacher the more closely s/he listens.

A disciple of Jesus Christ learns at His feet or as they both go along the way. Each day as the two spend time together Jesus teaches the disciple more about the Kingdom of God and the great things God the Father has for her. Wonderful things occur during these times.

Sometimes we humans think that learning is for a designated period of time of life. When that time is over there is nothing left for a person to learn. This is false! 

Learning continues throughout the course of one’s life. Think about it: you do not know what you do not know. Therefore one must remain a learner all the days of his life. 

As disciples of Jesus Christ we continue to learn from Him all the days of our lives. We journey with Him, watching what He has done by reading the Scriptures. We listen & learn to become more devoted followers of Him. It’s a daily walk filled with new adventures and lessons every day. 

So what does this mean for everyday life?

For one it means studying the Scriptures with an open heart.  The amount you read at a time does not matter.  Whether you read one verse, one chapter or one whole book it is okay.  What matters is hearing God teaching you in that passage and applying it in your life.

Another learning opportunity is seeing how God is acting in your life.  Those times you are out of your comfort zone and have to trust God to lead the way.  The moments you truly see how God has provided for your needs in ways you did not expect. 

Learning requires an open heart to hear new insights and have new experiences.  It has one be willing to surrender control allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the way.

So as you go about your journey with Jesus Christ remain a lifelong learner.  Enjoy the new experiences with Him.  Remain open to learning things you may never have learned without Him. 

This Week’s Challenge

Go about your day looking to learn something new from God.  When you do learn something new write it down, draw, or whatever helps you to remember.  At the end of the week see all that God has shown you.  Do you see a common theme in them?

What is a Disciple? A Disciple Listens

The word disciple means “follower, student.”  A disciple is one who learns from one another so that he will draw closer to the Teacher. In the process of learning one’s listening skills are put to the test. Is there an open heart within the disciple to fully listen to learn.  A willingness to listen to new concepts that will flip turn upside down one’s world? These are some of the marks of a listening disciple.

A disciple listens to the Voice of God to learn how she can serve and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every aspect of her life. She listen with a humble heart that is willing to begin to see the world, see people through the eyes of God. This is because a disciple is not greater than the Teacher. A disciple sits at the feet of the Teacher to hear His words for him. These words help build the foundation for one’s life and ministry.

Think of it this way:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

A disciple knows, is aware that there will be trouble in life so he builds his life on Jesus’ words to have a firm foundation that will not crumble when the storms come. This foundation only comes from listening to God.

So what does listening look like in every day life?

That is a great question!

Listening looks like quiet time with God. Reading Scripture not simply to check off the box on the To Do List, but to authentically listen to what God is saying to you in that particular text.

Listening looks like regular prayer time where we don’t do all the talking but we also stop talking to listen to God. Our hearts are moved, peace and hope are restored to our souls. We are strengthened in faith to not be deterred by what the adversary throws at us.

Listening looks like a conversation with a fellow disciple and the Holy Spirit stirs within us to lead, nudge us to where God is leading. 

As disciples of Jesus Christ we listen to the Father to learn from Him. The more we listen, the more we learn to recognize His Voice the better we become at listening. It takes time each day and over a period of time to grow. But don’t lose heart you will grow.

Remember it all begins with sitting at His feet like Mary (Luke 10:39) listening to His teaching. So be not distracted with the busyness of life like Martha (Luke 10:40) to miss what He has to share with you. The dishes will still be there. Let them soak. Set that show to record and watch it later. For right now stop, sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to learn directly from Him.

As you continue on your journey with Jesus Christ take the time to listen to learn from Him.  Be prepared to be completely changed, transformed from the inside out.  It will be scary at times but the growing pains you experience will enable you to see the full life that God has for you.  

This Week’s Challenge

Each day note in your journal, Bible, favorite notes app, Post-It note one thing you heard from God as you sought to listen to Him that day.  

What did you learn?

What is a Disciple? A Disciple Follows

Becoming a resolved disciple of Jesus Christ is a continuous process.  One learns what a disciple is and then through the journey becomes more resolved, committed to being a faith-filled disciple of Jesus Christ. 

So what is a disciple? Simply put a disciple is an individual who follows a particular leader/teacher. A disciple follows closely to the Teacher that figuratively the dust from the Teacher’s feet lands on the disciple. One strives to be glean on every word so as to not miss a thing.

This the first thing we will take a look at in this series. What is following and what does it truly look like in every day life?

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fisherman. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20)

Simon Peter and Andrew left their jobs, family, lives the moment Jesus called out to them. They left all that they knew for this new Rabbi (Teacher). it did not make sense. Who does that?

Simon Peter and Andrew and all the other 10 disciples Jesus called to follow Him.

A disciple of Jesus Christ follows Him.

Where He goes, they go.

What He teaches, they learn.

Where He leads, they follow.

They walk in His shadow because they are walking so close to Him.

We as Jesus’ disciples follow Him today by going into our communities and building intentional relationships with our neighbors.

We follow Jesus today when we serve the stranger with joy to her actual needs.

We follow Jesus as we spend time with Him to be taught so we can be sent out to “fish for people”. (Matthew 4:19b)

Take time right now to see where and when you follow Jesus. How are you learning from Him? What intentional relationships are you building with your neighbors? Where are you serving with joy?

For the next week as you begin each day be resolved to how you will walk in Jesus’ shadow. What will you learn to reflect it out to the world? Write it as a reminder in your calendar. Put it on a Post It note where you will see it throughout the day.

Whether you have been a disciple of Jesus for 20 years or 20 minutes Jesus is teaching you. Go where He is leading you. Enjoy the sights along the way.

This Week’s Challenge

List 3 ways you are following Jesus Christ this week.  Set them as reminders to do during the day.

Learning to Imagine Again

Imagine the world where people do what they say, live according to their values, be who they say they want to be. Imagine the church was known for its people and not its building. 

Imagine.  Just imagine.

Most of my life has been spent in the church either as a member or on staff in some capacity or another.  I have been a part of large congregations with a ginormous staff.  I have been a part of churches with less than a dozen people. One could say I have seen it all. 

Been there done that. Even got the t-shirt.

Through all of my experiences I have come to this conclusion we in the church have lost our imaginations along the way.

Whether it is out of fear or comfort for the way things are we lost the ability to dream big.  Lost our way to trust God’s leadership and dare to see where He is taking us.

Sure we can say with confidence that God created the world by speaking. We don’t doubt that God rolled back the Red Sea so His people, the Israelites, could walk on dry land before their enemies, the Egyptians could catch them.  We have no doubt that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later. 

These and other miracles we know to be true.  The impossible is possible with God.  But when it comes to our own lives we stop imagining the possibility of the impossible. We say it can’t happen.  The impossible are things that God does in the Bible or in someone else’s life, with another congregation.  Those things don’t happen to us or our church.

What if God has already given us the impossible in our hearts?  Maybe He is waiting for us to imagine the what if with Him?

Perhaps He is waiting for us to step into the wheelbarrow and let Him take us across the chasm on a tightrope. 

God is mighty and can do all things.  Nothing is impossible with Him. He invites us to journey with Him.  He asks us to trust Him, to hold His hand and see the great things He is doing. 

What would it look like if we stop trying to keep God in a box and start imagining what God could do?

Imagining is not saying it will happen.  It is about opening our hearts to what is possible. It is placing God front and center as the Lord Almighty of our lives. 

It does mean we will have to leave our personal comfort zones.  We will have to step out in faith and trust God. A wise person once told me that there is no growth in comfort and no comfort in growing.   It will be uncomfortable at times but the adventure is incredible.

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ requires us to surrender our personal will for control and allow God to lead us.  We follow Him.  He guides us along the way as He teaches us how to imagine once again. 

Over the next few posts we will look at what it truly means what to be a disciple, follower of Jesus Christ. We’ll learn from the Gospel of Matthew on how to follow and obey.  As we learn from Jesus’ own disciples we will begin to see in our own lives our imaginations begin to grow again. 

And just imagination what God will do when we all begin to imagining again, trusting God fully, surrendering ourselves to Him.  It’ll be a whole new world.

This Week’s Challenge — Take time this week to imagine dreams God has already placed in your heart.  Listen closely to what the Holy Spirit is telling you.  Write/draw/sing/doodle those dreams and each day watch what God is doing. 

The E3 Adventurous Life

Life is an adventure. Every day is chock full of its own surprises.  It is exciting to wake up and see what will be. 

It does not have to be mundane.  The same thing day in and day out.

Whether you wake up and go to work or wake up on vacation life is an adventure. Exciting and new.  Come aboard. (Singing “The Love Boat” theme song, are you?)

How can life be adventure? Well, when you wake up you don’t really know what will actually happen by the end of the day. It might be planned but anything is possible. 

It’s also a mindset. If you expect to go on an adventure you will find one in your day.  You will enjoy the small moments and the epic ones. Each are exciting in ties own way.

The E3 Adventurous Life is one that keeps life exciting. Or at least helps one keep the mindset of adventure.

What are the 3 E’s?  Well, here they are:

Explore

Experience

Enjoy

Explore – It’s going out and trying something new, going on a new route to wherever you may go, It’s learning about life, yourself or a skill. 

Experience – Go make a memory with a friend, furry or human.  Share an adventure  together.  Spend time with those you love.  Be truly present with one another.

Enjoy – Have fun! Every one should laugh and/or smile each day. Today will be said and gone before you know it.  Tomorrow is a new day.  So enjoy today for all that it’s worth. Go out on your adventure and have a joy-filled time. 

Begin each day with a hopeful expectation for the adventures that await you that day.  Be excited to explore, experience and enjoy.  

At the conclusion of the day reflect back on the adventure.  Write down how you explored, experienced and enjoyed. Look forward to tomorrow’s adventure. 

May we all embrace this crazy, random adventure that we call life. Don’t be afraid to miss out on something new out of fear. When you do feel fear keep holding on to Jesus’ hand.  He’s not letting go.  Keep holding on. Then go on the next adventure.

This Week’s Challenge

Write in your journal how you Explored, Experienced and Enjoyed the adventure that day.  See how the E3 Adventurous Life mindset begins to set in.  See how this change in mindset impacts your whole outlook. 

Going from Me to We

I love reality TV!  It is a guilty pleasure of mine.  I was hooked since watching “The Real World – San Francisco”  Pedro is still one of my favorites.  

It is quite fun to be able to people watch from the comforts of my own couch. 

Recently I watched a new series on ABC “Castaways”.  The concept is simple: 12 individuals abandoned on a string of islands in the South Pacific.  There was strewn luggage, sparse resources and some abandoned structures.  They knew there were others but unsure of how many.  They were told they would be rescued but did not know when that rescue would come. They had to learn how to survive.

Some castaways tried to survive on his/her own to preserve resources.  Others from the onset wanted to seek out others to have community while they worked to survived until rescue came.  

As the days passed most castaways quit for their own personal reasons.  The remaining ones slowly came together as one group when rescue did come for them. 

The most interesting piece to me was observing each castaway go from a Me Mentality to a We Mentality.  They each came to value not just companionship but the sense of community.  No one had to be alone.  They had each other in this shared experience.  

One could survive alone but we thrive together.  

God created us for community.  He did not want us to be alone in the good times or in the bad times.  He gave us each other so that we all can thrive together.

Sure, we can be stubborn and insist on doing things on our own.  But isn’t anything more enjoyable when you share with a friend?

When awesome things happen we want to share the great news with someone. As we trek through difficult times it is comforting to know there is someone by our side to journey through it with us.  The mundane days are fun when you laugh with a friend. 

We may not be left on a deserted island but there are times life feels a little too chaotic.  We can feel overwhelmed. If we keep our Me Mentality we may survive but most likely be exhausted through the process.  But by changing our perspective to a We Mentality each of us begin to thrive in ways we may not have thought possible. 

A We Mentality gives us others to learn from, friends to share all of life with, opportunities to thrive as individuals and therefore as a community. 

As followers of Jesus Christ our mentality changes from a Me to We Mentality. It is not just about ourselves.  It becomes about others and the whole community. We see how we each belong to and in community.  

While we all have been rescued from the bondage of sin by the life, death & resurrection of Jesus Christ we can now thrive together advancing the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

I’ll leave you with this quote from the show: 

“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”

Which is it for you? Going fast and alone OR far and together?

This Week’s Challenge 

Who is in your community?  List how you thrive together in life.  As you about your week, focus on one of those ways.  Note how it enriches not just you but the whole community.  

Is It Okay to Ask God a Question?

There is a misperception floating around that one is not able to ask God questions.  The thinking goes that true faith means that one blindly trusts God without thinking or questioning.  Almost like a robot who simply obeys without free will.

I’m here to tell you this is false.  God welcomes questions from us with open arms.  He loves them.

So have no fear to ask questions. Go for it.  Rest assured you are not alone.  Others have questions just like you.

Read through the Bible and one will find faithful man after faithful woman asking God questions and waiting for His response.

Here are just a couple of examples: 

David – Psalm 22
David is crying out to God in this psalm during a time of distress in his life.  Through the psalm he knows God is still with him and caring for him.  He doesn’t lose hope.

Habbakkuk – The whole book (Don’t worry it’s only 3 chapters long)
Habakkuk was an Old Testament prophet who sought to understanding God’s purpose in His actions towards His people.  Habakkuk may not fully understand the why but he remains resolute in giving God praise and worship.

Mary – Luke 1: 26-38
Mary is visited by an angel to learn that she is to given birth to the Promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.  She asks her question as to how it will come to be only to be reassured by the angel that it is God’s doing not her own.  Her response, faithful obedience and trust that nothing is impossible with God.

The mere act of having questions demonstrates a willingness by the believer to grow deeper in one’s relationship with God.  The person is processing what God is teaching her.  She internalizes the experience so her trust in God is strengthen by God’s doing. The questions asked are examples of faith development.

Now when I say question God I am not referring to challenging God in order to discredit Him.  I mean asking questions of clarification for the purpose of learning.  To challenge one’s presuppositions and gain a clarifying understanding of God’s love, grace and mercy.  

What areas of your walk with Jesus Christ do you have questions?

Be confident that you can bring them to God and ask away.  You will find He answers them in many and various ways: through the Bible, in conversations with fellow believers, prayer time with Him.  As God is showing you these lessons remain in community with fellow disciples so together you all can best understand what God is teaching all of you.

Remain patient.  God has His own timing in answering questions.  Some He may have you to wait to fully understand.  When He does continue to trust as the Holy Spirit leads you.  The waiting is part of the learning process.

As you go about your day feel free to ask away to God.  Then wait and see how He is answering them.  He just may surprise you.

This Week’s Challenge:

Write down 3 questions you have about faith. Go to the Bible and see how God has answers for them. You can use the search feature on Bible apps to help you find the topic in the Bible. Or try a concordance/index in your paper Bible to help you.  Note what God is teaching you in your devotional time this week. 

What does a Sabbath Really Look Like?

I love the Minnesota State Fair!  It is twelve days of fun, work and funny stories with friends.  We have a lot of fun together each night at work.  We look forward to it every year with great excitement.  By the end of the twelve days we are exhausted and ready to be done until next year. 

Needless to say the last night is rather bittersweet for us. Relief for it being the final night of work.  Sadness that it will be a few months before we are all together again. 

It can be very tiring to work most nights at the Fair late into the night and then get up early the next morning to go to one’s day job.  There are not many hours of sleep for any of us. 

Each year this is a great reminder to me the importance of keeping a sabbath day in my regular rhythm to the week. 

Our bodies require a period of time to rest and recover.  Not only is it physically healthy to have a rest day but God directs us to remember the sabbath.   

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
(Exodus 20:8) 

He directs each of us to keep the sabbath holy by setting aside one day each week to put the work aside and rest. 

Rest does not necessarily mean sleeping in and binge watch the latest popular TV show.  It can be going out for a day hike with a loved one or friend.  Or doing yard work. Or perhaps spending time on your favorite hobby.  The specific activity is not limited to a select few things.  Do what gives you life and renews your spirit.  

It can look different each week. Or be the different day of the week depending on the week’s schedule which is why it is important to schedule your sabbath on the calendar as you would any other event in your life.  

Don’t feel guilty for taking the day for yourself. The world will try to distract you and convince you that you will always need to be working.  Taking a day off is not a ‘sign of weakness’.  Taking a day off is actually a sign of strength and understanding what you need to be healthy.

As you prepare for your sabbath set some expectations or guidelines to help you. 

Before the day arrives decide how you will handle technology. Does the cell phone go on Do Not Disturb for the whole day?  Will you watch television?

Who will you spend time with that day?  Would you prefer to be alone?  Would you rather be with friends?

What does true rest look like for you? Will you get some chores done?  Maybe you want to go out on an adventure. 

Give yourself permission to have your sabbath look different as often or as much as you want it to have. Do not put too high expectations on the day. Whatever it is you do or don’t do be content during the day.  Have the mindset of being and not doing.  Be intentional to remind yourself of who you are and Who’s you are.  

This is a healthy rhythm to life and ministry.  Don’t try to be formulaic with it.  Allow each Sabbath to unfold itself to you as a present.  Enjoy the quiet adventure days as much as the daring adventure days.

Enjoy your sabbath day. Whatever it is you do have fun.  I pray you have a smile on your face and in your heart throughout the day. 

This Week’s Challenge

Schedule of Sabbath on your calendar for the next 3 weeks.  Write it on the calendar and plan the remainder of your week accordingly.

Next, think about what gives you life and inspiration.  Write down what does not.  Set boundaries for your sabbath so that it is the rest-filled, life-giving day as God designed it to be from the beginning.  

Lastly, have fun!