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Disciple-Making Resources

New Podcast Episode: Prayer

Today, my wife and I released the third episode in our podcast series, “How to Grow as a Disciple.” In this episode we talk about prayer.

Is prayer as complicated as we think? Does it always have to be a formal, scheduled time where you sit down for an hour with God? Or can it be more conversational and “as you go” about your day? What do you do when you don’t know what to say? How can God’s word transform your prayer life? We get to these issues and more in this episode.

If you enjoy our podcast, subscribe, pass it on to others, and leave a review. Thanks for listening

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Disciple-Making Life

Welcome One Another

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Romans 1-9 gets all the love. All the attention. As it should. It’s a dynamic exposition of sin, God’s wrath, justification by faith, and the power of the Spirit. It’s a tour de force from the Apostle Paul.

But today, as I’m finishing up reading through Romans, it struck me how important Romans 14 and the first six verses of chapter 15 are. I was struck a second time when I realized how vital they are for Christians, particularly in the United States, at this particular juncture in history.

To sum it up, Paul first tells his readers that Christians are not to pass judgment in non-essential matters (in his context, he’s referring to the choice to observing festival days or not). In non-essentials, people are free to do what they like (provided, of course, they aren’t being a jerk doing it.) Everyone is accountable to the Lord in these matters.

Second, he writes that believers are not to cause others to stumble. Paul isn’t forbidding women from wearing a bikini, here (that’s an entirely different blog post). Rather, he’s cautioning his readers to watch their actions so that others aren’t tempted to return to a particular lifestyle they had before their conversion.

Then, at the beginning of chapter 15, Paul gets at the root: Don’t live to please yourself. Live to please your neighbor. Welcome one another.

In other words, people–even other Christians–are different than you. We agree on the most fundamental tenants of our faith. But there are other areas where we disagree. Welcome these people. All of these people. Live in harmony with them. Love them. Accommodate them.

Welcome one another. 

Why?

Christ has welcomed you.

Why would Paul say that? Thick guilt trip? No. True freedom from the peripheral entanglements that enslave us? Yes. Jesus has welcomed all sorts of people into his kingdom, and there’s one common denominator. He is God and everyone else is not. That’s quite the difference. That’s quite the welcoming.

If Christ can welcome sinners, like you and me, we can welcome brothers and sisters in Christ who have different affiliations or are in another tribe, whether they are political, social, racial, economic, or otherwise. We can say to them, “I know we don’t see eye to eye on some things, but please come in. You’re family.”

Will there be some things to sort out? Oh my, yes. Will there be some course corrections that need to be made? Definitely. Will there need to be contrite confessions and long-term changes made? On all sides.

But what divides Christians in this country today is no worse than what divided Jews and Gentiles in the first century. Consider that task! The power to change back then and now is found only in the person of Jesus Christ, the One who welcomed rebellious enemies into his fold. It’s easy for us Christians to forget that even (especially!) we need Jesus.

At the end of the day, Jesus did not live for himself. He gave himself away.

Are we willing to do the same?

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Disciple-Making

Discipleship is Friendship

It boggles my mind to think of Jesus going to a wedding. This means he was invited to a wedding. That means someone thought of Jesus to be enough of a friend to put him on the guest list.

Now, think about this. Jesus saw his fishermen friends struggling to catch fish. After telling them to give it one more shot, he started a fire and waited. He camped out with them at sunrise, took their fresh catch, and made it into breakfast. Who does that but a friend?

Jesus had friends. He was a friend.

Of course, Jesus isn’t just any old friend. He’s also Creator, Master, Savior, King. But he is still a friend. Perhaps being those things and a friend, the Friend, makes his friendship all the more wonderful.

Friendship was Jesus’ unique method for discipleship. He was a leader, of course. But Jesus was never the lord-it-over kind of leader. He was the come-alongside kind. The kind who eats dinner at your house. Takes long walks with you. Tells you stories about God. Encourages you when you mess up. Empowers you to do ministry. Prays for you.

In John 15, in case there was any doubt, he told his disciples explicitly, “You are my friends.” But he goes on, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give to you.”

Jesus is passing the baton of his model to his disciples. Calling his disciples “friends,” he tells them that their mission to is to bear fruit—that is, make disciples (remember the metaphor of vine > branches > fruit).

That’s not the most amazing thing, however. Jesus says all of this is “so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” Ask the Father for disciples and he will give them to us.

But what if we take the Jesus model of discipleship and turn it into something unrecognizable? All too often, we’ve made discipleship top-down (i.e. professionals to laymen), transactional, a one-hour meeting over coffee, a church service, or an eight week class.

These aren’t evil things. Not at all! But Jesus did none of them. And he is the Master.


Discipleship is friendship in a Christ-ward direction.


There are certainly many strategies for making disciples, but if transparency, authenticity, confessing, story telling, encouraging, living together in the mess of everyday life—the stuff of real friendship—is not at the core, then it subverts Jesus’ model. I don’t believe we can approach discipleship differently than Jesus, ask for whatever we wish, and still expect to receive what we ask for.

If we do not follow the Master’s model, we will make something. It just won’t be disciples.

I like to say, “Discipleship is friendship in a Christ-ward direction.” Hopefully, your gears are turning now. Mine are. In the next post, we’ll dig deeper into what discipleship as friendship really means (and doesn’t mean), and I’ll share some tips for how to make this a reality.

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Disciple-Making Life

Tax Collectors, Zealots, and Jesus

I have heard from people twice my age that this is the most politically divided the United States has ever been in their lifetime. I believe it. There are probably lots of reasons for this outside of actual issues. Media outlets like CNN and Fox and social media push the envelope in an unprecedented way. Whatever the reason, this nation is divided. Yet division is one thing. In a free nation, division, or I should say difference is welcome and necessary. Intense animosity for the opponent, is altogether another. The beauty of this country is that you are free to disagree with any one of my views and not be imprisoned or executed for it. The tragedy of this country is that you are also free to call me a bigot, narrow-minded, or hateful for disagreeing with your view. That’s where we find ourselves today.

In the Church, however, the story is quite different. Jesus brings a diverse multitude of people into his new people, a new nation. Not a geopolitical nation with physical borders. But a spiritual nation united over time and despite any differences in skin color, language, nationality, and yes, even political opinion. In the Church, Jesus unites what was divided. In the Church, Jesus creates a community of love, grace, and humility.

When Jesus was on the earth, he chose twelve men to follow him around and learn from him. Every one of those men (including Judas who betrayed him) are unique and integral to the gospel story. But two men whom Jesus chose especially stand out in light of our current political climate: Matthew and Simon (not Peter).

Matthew, a Jew, was a tax collector (Matt. 10:3), a Roman government employee. An IRS collection agent, if you will. But a corrupt one. Tax collectors not only demanded you give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but that you also give to Matthew what is Matthew’s. He stole from people. Tax collectors were hated by the general Jewish population.

Simon, also a Jew, was called “the Zealot” (Matt. 10:4)—a fanatical, anti-Rome activist. He was perhaps a violent protestor, militantly opposed to big government. Zealots concealed and carried. They snarled at centurions and were always ready for a brawl. The freedom of Judea was worth it.

Can you imagine having these two men in your small group…this year?

Jesus didn’t accidentally include these two extreme political opposites in his discipleship group. He knew what he was doing. Jesus knew that in his new community, starting with this small band, he would display for the world that allegiance to him and his mission superseded and overshadowed all other allegiances and missions, political or otherwise.

In the community of Jesus, tax collectors and zealots come together in miraculous unity. Only God could do this. Here, tax collectors and zealots learn to appreciate each other’s views, experiences, and passions. Here, they seek to do each other good, not evil. Here, they fight for each other, not against each other. Here, they humble themselves and build each other up. Here, they learn that if you love father or mother or Red or Blue more than him, you are not worthy of him (see Matt. 10:39).

So the Matthews and the Simons are united, but not uniform, of course—they don’t agree on every single issue. Matthew might keep his job and pension. Simon might keep his sword (with a permit, of course). However, their views will, by God’s grace over time, be put in perspective and become balanced. Christ’s glory, not political ideology, becomes supreme. The spread of the gospel becomes their joint venture. Their views are put in check to Jesus’ word and where there is error in one or both views, repentance and conforming to Jesus is required. Where Jesus is silent, there is room for respectful debate, gracious compromise, and the pursuit of just practice for the common good.

The world sees this and shakes its head in disbelief. But this is the way of Jesus. He simultaneously offends and comforts the conservatives and the liberals, calling them to himself. It’s as if he’s saying, Where is your ultimate allegiance? Who is your true love? I am your king. Come find in me what you have always been looking for. 

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Disciple-Making Life

Everyday Talk, Everyday Discipleship

My wife and I live with two non-Christians, and a third is moving in this fall. These people don’t know much about Jesus. Their affection for Jesus is, practically, non-existent. When we talk about Jesus or pray or sing, they do not fall on their faces confessing their sin and praying for God’s Spirit to rain down mercy on them. Still, we’ve welcomed them as genuine members of our family. There are good days and bad days, but we love these people. Their journey to Jesus is a process. They have stony hearts and rebellious wills hell-bent on seeking their own glory, not God’s. They seek their own good, not that of others. We pray that someday they believe in Jesus and see transformation. But man alive, right now it’s not pretty. In fact, it can be downright unbecoming some days.

Can you imagine living with people like this?

Chances are, you do.

If you are a parent.

Our two, soon-to-be-three, non-Christian housemates are our beloved children. They are full-fledged members of our family, cherished and treasured above all else. Yet they did not come out of the womb singing “Just As I Am.” They aren’t Christians yet. They are members of a covenant household—Carly and I belong to Jesus—but they need conversion, just as we did at one point.

Having the perspective that we don’t just have two children but two non-Christian children (and another ready to move in), changes everything. Everything becomes evangelism and discipleship. Every conversation is a gospel conversation. Every failure or success is a moment for correction or instruction or encouragement or training. If and when our children do cross over from unbelief to belief in Jesus, this everyday and everything discipleship will not stop, but continue on quite organically.

If Carly and I are going to lead our non-Christian children to Jesus, it’s going to happen in the mundane, average, everyday stuff of life. A conversation here, a conversation there. While we walk and play and talk and read stories and watch movies and eat meals and drive and kiss ouchies and wipe away tears. Over and over and over again. It’s not going to be a one-time event or a once-a-week lesson at Sunday School. Those things can help, but it’s the everyday talk that will be the primary influence in our home. Deuteronomy 6:4-25 shows us the power of “everyday talk” in the home.

As parents in a big and fast society this is hard to handle. We want Chia Pet discipleship: after a few weeks gospel seeds start to sprout, the shekinah glory comes down, and our children are changed on the spot.

The reality is that it happens over a long period of time with lots of short, meaningful, gospel conversations that produce a lifestyle of discipleship

It happens on the way to Sunday worship, when Bailey asks me if God hears loud noises. I say he hears everything, so Bailey asks, “Is God in my heart?” Perhaps Bailey knows, deep down, there are things going on in her heart that no one knows and if God is in her heart, surely he’d “hear” those “noises,” too. Whatever the case, I say, “God is in your heart if you trust Jesus and love him.” Back to the radio. “Can you turn it up?” And we drive on.

It happens at the grocery store. Bailey makes a comment about the color of someone’s skin, simply noticing she looks different—a little darker—than we do. Everyone is made in the image of God and Jesus died for all people, not just the white ones. Back to veggies and ice cream and bread. And we walk on.

It happens when I’m unbecoming and selfish and hell-bent on seeking my own glory, and I turn to my blonde 24-month-old Hope and say, “Sweetheart, what Daddy said and did was not okay. Please forgive me. I need Jesus just like you.” Kiss. Hug. And we play on.

This is how discipleship happens. Look at the birds of the air. The grass of the field. Notice the sower. Consider this mustard tree. Do you see that mountain? Carly and I aren’t great at this. We probably aren’t even good at it. But we are learning and growing. We—the disciple-makers—are also being made, being changed. And it’s our prayer that, over time, by God’s sovereign grace, our everyday discipleship makes a few everyday disciples of Jesus right in our home.